A stolen truck was crashed into a store in central Stockholm on Friday afternoon, killing four people and injuring another 15 people. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has announced that the incident appears to be a terror attack and has taken measures to heighten security in Sweden.
The truck left bloody tyre tracks as it ploughed into pedestrians on Drottninggatan, the city’s largest pedestrian street, before smashing into Ahlens department store just prior to 3pm local time.
“I turned around and saw a big truck coming towards me. It swerved from side to side. It didn’t look out of control, it was trying to hit people,” said Australian tourist Glen Foran.
Another eyewitness, Annevi Petersson said she heard screams and “There was blood everywhere.”
The site of the tragedy is closely located to Stockholm Central Station, which was evacuated as the city went into lockdown. Shops, cinemas and public buildings were evacuated and the metro was completely shut down for several hours. Police circulated the city with loudspeakers, urging people to go home and avoid large crowds, however the city streets were packed for hours as pedestrians tried to find a way home.
On Friday night, Lofven said he has strengthened Sweden’s border controls and stated that Swedish values of democracy and freedom would not be “undermined by hatred”.
“Terrorists want us to be afraid, want us to change our behaviour, want us to not live our lives normally, but that is what we’re going to do. So terrorists can never defeat Sweden, never,” he said.
The attack in Stockholm is the latest in a string of similar vehicle massacres in Europe, including the Bastille Day attack in Nice in July last year, the attack on London’s Westminster Bridge last month and the attack targeting shoppers in Berlin’s Christmas market in December. Most of these attacks have either suspected or claimed to be related to so-called Islamic State (IS), especially since IS gave instructions in 2014 on how to carry out attacks in Western countries without military equipment, using rocks, knives or by running people over with vehicles.
Sweden’s neighbouring countries including Norway and Finland have responded to the Stockholm attack by increasing patrols. Police in Oslo’s airport were also ordered to carry weapons until further notice, Norwegian police said in a tweet.
The European Union offered solidarity and support to Sweden on Friday.
“An attack on any of our member states is an attack on us all,” EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said, “We stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the people of Sweden and the Swedish authorities can count on the European Commission to support them in any which way we can.”
The recent attacks have prompted further action as Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen called for increased cooperation between countries to combat attacks.
“One thing we can do is to cooperate even closer on exchanging data, exchanging information about what we learn of those terror cells or terrorists.”