Sweden narrowly avoided mass casualties: foreign minister

14th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Stockholm narrowly avoided mass casualties not seen in Europe for some time when it was attacked by a suicide bomber at the weekend, Sweden's foreign minister said Monday.

Carl Bildt told BBC television that the bomber was just minutes and "a couple of hundred metres" from causing catastrophe when he blew himself up in a busy shopping district of the Swedish capital on Saturday.

The bomber, who investigators strongly believe was Taymour Abdelwahad, was the only person to die in the attack. Two other people were injured when the bomber detonated a car before blowing himself up.

Bildt said he did not know the bomber's exact target but added that he appeared to have been "heading into probably the most crowded place of Stockholm at the most crowded time of the year.

"He was heading into a place where if he had exploded all of the ordnance that he had with him... it would have been mass casualties of a sort that we have not seen in Europe for quite some time," he told the programme Newsnight.

"We were extremely lucky... I mean minutes and just a couple of hundred metres from where it would have been very catastrophic."

An Islamist group has said Abdelwahad, a Swedish citizen who had been living in Britain, targeted Sweden over its military presence in Afghanistan.

The attacker was carrying a cocktail of explosives and probably meant to wreak carnage among Christmas shoppers, Swedish prosecution chief Tomas Lindstrand said.

Bildt said that Sweden was working with other countries, including Britain and the United States, to figure out whether the bomber had any accomplices.

British police have been searching his house in Luton, just north of London, where he had been living with his family.

"It might be that he was operating on that particular night alone," said Bildt.

"It might be that preparations and training and whatever was part of a wider network. But that is obviously something that the authorities are extremely keen to find out."

© 2010 AFP

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