On Friday, April 7, Sweden fell victim to Europe’s most recent terrorist attack, as a hijacked beer truck went crashing through a department store in Stockholm. The incident claimed four lives and has hospitalized ten others, two of which are still in intensive care. Stockholm was swiftly locked down as armed police cleared the area and launched a manhunt for the those involved in the attack.
Since the traumatic event police have arrested two men linked to the attack, but are still searching for a third. Head of the national operations department, Mats Löfving, released CCTV footage of a man who was within the vicinity of the attack around the time it took place. Authorities have urged anyone to come forward with information on the man’s location.
While the motives of the men’s actions are still uncertain, Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, insists that this was definitely a “terrorist attack,” linking it to the incidents that occurred in Nice, Berlin and London. This claim is strengthened by the fact the person driving the vehicle was a 39-year-old Uzbek man who had previous ties with an Islamic Extremist group in his native country.
Given the nature of the attack, Swedish politicians have been forced to re-evaluate their immigration policy. Sweden is well known for its open door policy, accepting 163,000 refugees in 2015. However, Prime Minister Lofven is considering enforcing stricter measures to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Additionally, Swedish parliament is also looking to introduce laws that prevent the spread of Islamic extremism. According to Swedish security services, nearly 300 people have travelled from Sweden to join violent Islamic groups since 2012, making the country the second only to Belgium as the largest contributor to Islamic militant groups. The majority of those joining these violent institutions are young people who come from poor and vulnerable backgrounds. Having so many of their own people turn against them puts Sweden in a more vulnerable situation.
It is evident that Sweden need to fix their approach to asylum seekers and the disadvantaged in their community; however, they must make sure to avoid implementing methods that promote complete isolation. Terrorist organisations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda thrive off of people who feel disassociated and have nowhere else to go. If Sweden were to completely shut out those fleeing from war-torn countries and ignore the helpless in their own country, it could inadvertently strengthen ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Although this isn’t an easy problem to solve, Sweden is not alone. European Union chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said, “An attack on any of our member states is an attack on us all,” and encouraged other EU members to support Sweden during this difficult time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel answered the call insisting that “we stand together against terror.” Despite the challenges Sweden has faced in the last few days, Lofven is confident that Sweden will remain “an open democratic society” especially with the support of its European allies.