On 7 April 2017, a truck rammed into a crowd of busy pedestrians, killing four people (and a dog) and injuring 15 more. The man who is suspected of driving a truck into a crowd of pedestrians on a busy shopping street in central Stockholm has now been identified as Rakhmat Akilov, 39, an Uzbek national, according to Swedish news media and the Associated Press.
On 11 April 2017, he admitted to the crime in court:
The Stockholm District Court ruled that police could detain Rakhmat Akilov for a month after he admitted in court that he drove the stolen beer truck into a crowd outside an upscale department store in central Stockholm on Friday afternoon. He was detained by police hours later and arrested early Saturday.
Police have not given a motive for the attack and no extremist group has claimed responsibility. Police said Akilov was known to have been sympathetic to extremist organizations but that there was nothing to indicate he might plan an attack. His Swedish residency application was rejected last year.
Akilov is accused of hijacking the beer delivery truck and driving it into a crowd on Drottninggatan, a shopping street close to Stockholm's central transit hub. Swedes have set up memorials for the victims there, including the dog.
According to a report by SVT, Sweden's national broadcaster, it's unclear when Akilov arrived in Sweden, but applied for permanent residence in 2014. In 2016, his request was rejected because his story about why he needed to escape Uzbekistan was "improbable."
He was ordered to leave the country in December 2016, but instead of doing so went into hiding to avoid deportation. Senior police official Jonas Hysing told reporters:
In December 2016, he was informed by the Migration Agency that he had four weeks to leave the country. In February 2017, the case was handed over to the police to carry out the order, since the person had gone underground.
Police described Akilov as having "shown sympathies for extremist organizations" such as the Islamic State (IS) group, according to various news reports. Agence France Presse reports he lived in Marsta, a city north of Stockholm and close to the country's international airport.
Swedes responded to the attack two days later when roughly 20,000 people gathered at Sergels Torg Plaza, near the site of the truck attack, for a vigil:
Stockholmers reclaim the street that only 48 hrs ago was the scene of chaos and violence #kärleksmanifestaion #Stockholm pic.twitter.com/gPFF7UKhrP
— David Landes (@DaveLandes) April 9, 2017
"Stockholm is our city, a city we are proud of, where we like to be. Fear shall not reign. Terror cannot win," Stockholm mayor Karin Wanngard said.
"Instead, we shall think of the kindness and openness that characterises our city. That is what we're going to build on," she said, praising a city "characterised by openness and tolerance".
"And if we do that, then terrorism will have lost."
Linking arms, under flags flying at half-mast, the crowd held a minute of silence to honour the victims.
Swedish author and historian Johan Norberg told us by e-mail that though shaken, Swedes returned to normal in Stockholm quickly — normal, that is, besides a more visible police presence on the streets:
For all my foreign friends who worry and ask me questions, this is what happened in Sweden yesterday: The terrorist who wanted to sow division and spread hatred and suspicion created the exact opposite of what he wanted: In response to the lockdown of Stockholm, Swedes helped strangers to get home, opened their homes for those who couldn't make it, fed the stranded and even collected their kids from pre-school. Social media was filled with offers of all sorts of help, using the hashtag #openstockholm. I've never seen such a spontaneous outpouring of kindness, generosity and humanity in Stockholm, from and between atheists, christians, muslims and whatevers. Everybody did what they could for their loved ones and for random strangers. Last night in Sweden, the terrorists lost.