The World from Berlin Sweden Shows There Are 'No Terror-Free Islands'

Swedish investigators released more information Monday about the two bomb attacks in Stockholm. Some German commentators, already jittery with an elevated threat level in their own country, conclude that no place is safe.

A firefighter attempts to put out a burning car in Stockholm on Dec. 11, 2010.
Reuters

A firefighter attempts to put out a burning car in Stockholm on Dec. 11, 2010.


A Swedish prosecutor said Monday that a terror attempt in Stockholm over the weekend was almost certainly carried out by a 28-year-old Swedish citizen, who also presumably had helpers in planning the attack.

On Saturday, a car bomb exploded in downtown Stockholm, followed closely by the blast of a backpack bomb which killed the perpetrator and injured two others in a busy pedestrian area.

The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that the man, Taimour A., moved with his parents to Sweden in 1992 and later began studies at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, England. British newspapers have reported that he then got involved with radical Islamists. The attackers responsible for the July 2005 bombings of London public transportation, in which 52 people were killed, gathered at the train station in Luton before waging their attacks.

Until now, the Stockholm attack was presumed to have been perpetrated by a lone suicide bomber. No known terror organizations have yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the suicide bomber was originally from Iraq, and was highly active in different social networks on the Internet, where he positioned himself against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Explosives in a Backpack

Sweden's leading terrorism expert, Magnus Ranstorp, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the Stockholm attempt "could have been a massacre" since the attacker had nails and more explosives in his backpack, which failed to detonate.

The suspected bomber reportedly sent a sound file to the Swedish television station TT prior to the attack, in which he referred to the Swedish military presence in Afghanistan and a cartoon by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, depicting Muhammad as a dog, and said "so will your children, daughters, brothers and sisters die, like our brothers, sister and children die."

In the audio file, the man said in Arabic and Swedish: "To my family, try to forgive me. I could not sit and watch while all the injustice happens against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, when the pig Vilks did what he did. "

Sweden has struggled in recent months with preserving its reputation as a tolerant society. In September, the far-right Sweden Democrats sent shock waves throughout the political world in Stockholm after winning 20 seats in the 349-member parliament. The party has called Islam the greatest foreign threat since World War II and wants strict cutbacks on immigration. In response, a new party has been founded by immigrants hoping to protect foreigners' interests. In October, there was a series of shootings targeting foreigners in the southwestern Swedish city of Malmö.

The attacks in Sweden seemed to stun some German observers, who have been on high alert with the rest of the country since German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière warned the population in November of a serious risk of terrorist attacks. As one pundit noted, the attempt in Sweden shows there aren't any "terror-free islands."

The center-right Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"On Saturday two bombs exploded, and a person blew a hole through his stomach for his beliefs. On Sunday people went shopping again and the Christmas markets were well attended. Life goes on."

"There are two messages hiding behind this. The first is that Islamist terror is untamable, because there are vast groups of angry, young men with backgrounds in religious fanaticism who are not able to be mollified. Their targets are random.... Their motive appears to be quenching their thirst for blood. The Swedish democracy would also not have faltered even if the bombs had caused great damage. As such, a certain amount of calm is understandable."

"Secondly, the long list of failed and minor attacks show that the culprits, and their amateur attempts, can't always count on their luck. That's why calm alone isn't enough. Being alert is important -- to the types of offenders, materials used to make explosives, and potential targets. The likely perpetrators fit a model profile. Being too casual is also dangerous, even when calm is the best form of defense against an enemy whose weapon is fear."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Why Sweden? A country that, until now, had been spared terror. Certainly, Sweden, too, has a few hundred soldiers in Afghanistan. And the "Muhammad-as-dog" sketches of artist Lars Vilks resulted in threats and at least one attempted attack in recent years. But otherwise, the country has offered few reasons to come into the sights of the radical islamists."

"Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, doesn't want panic or speculation. The attempts were a 'serious attack on our open society,' but one should have 'patience with our democracy and our legal system.' It is a prudent reaction, that hopefully Stockholm can maintain. But already there are voices saying that the attacks were the logical consequences of the 'wrong track of mulitculturalism.' They think that they can use this for their campaign against the 'foreign infiltration of the Swedish population.'"

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"Bombs exploding during Advent. Germans security agencies had warned about the possibility. And now it has happened in Sweden...."

"Advent is a time for gentleness and thoughtfulness, and for enemies of the Western world also the perfect sounding board. Any bomb during this season is particularly loud. It was not without reason that the German security agencies already sounded the alarm at the end of November...."

"What, though, can one do to prevent such attacks? One can focus attention and intuition on the unusual. But the threat must be more evident. There must have been terrible attacks that have jolted people awake. A society like Israel constantly is experiencing a balancing act between maintaining a heightened state of alert against omnipresent enemies, and, at the same time, enjoying life and personal freedom. This enormous psychological challenge faces Europe if the situation gets any worse."

The left-leaning daily Berliner Zeitung writes:

"The Swedes were lucky again. The attack only cost the perpetrator's life. But it reminds us that there aren't any terror-free islands anymore. Even in a Scandinavia that appeared to be safe, there are fanatics whose wrong-headed ideology doesn't preclude the murder of innocent civilians."

"Naturally, one can look for motives: the Swedish contigent in Afghanistan, the ostensible insult to the Prophet Muhammad from a caricature. But that is nonsense. There is no excuse for inhumane terror, nor is there one for pinning a crime committed by a single actor or terror organization on an entire ethnicity or religion."

-- Mary Beth Warner

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