Stockholm truck attacker charged with terrorism

Updated: Jan 31, 2018, 10:57 IST | IANS

The man who rammed a stolen truck into a crowd in Stockholm in April last year, killing five and injuring 14, was charged on Tuesday with terrorism, attempts to carry out an act of terror, and putting others in danger

Representation pic
Representation pic

The man who rammed a stolen truck into a crowd in Stockholm in April last year, killing five and injuring 14, was charged on Tuesday with terrorism, attempts to carry out an act of terror, and putting others in danger. Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old Uzbek national, has already confessed but wants to avoid a life sentence or deportation, his attorney said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon after the preliminary investigation was made public for the first time.

"My aim is that Akilov should never again be allowed to move freely in our society," Xinhua quoted prosecutor Hans Ihrman asa saying. In previous hearings, Akilov has said that he wanted to put a stop to Sweden's support for the global fight against the terrorist group IS. His defense attorney, Johan Eriksson, confirmed that was his client's motive.

According to the preliminary investigation, Akilov had, in online conversations starting mid-January 2017, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and expressed wishes to carry out an attack on Stockholm. He wanted to "run over infidels", according to the prosecutor. It was unclear whether IS had responded to Akilov's messages or supported his actions.

Akilov had also gathered information about possible targets and, prosecutors said on Tuesday, he likely decided to carry out the attack on a Friday afternoon because downtown Stockholm is at its busiest then. He had looked for information online about how to make a bomb and the day before the attack googled the phrases "jumping out of the car" and "out of the car if you don't want to die".

A few hours before hijacking a truck, he recorded a video on his mobile phone with a statement saying "it is time to kill". He then drove, at high speed, down the pedestrian shopping street Drottninggatan. He finally crashed into a department store and then fled the scene after the cab of the truck caught fire.

The preliminary investigation claims that he also tried, but failed, to detonate a bomb and that he was in contact with another person while driving the truck. A British man, a Belgian woman and three Swedes were killed, including an 11-year-old girl. In connection with Akilov's arrest, just hours after the attack, police confiscated several items, including a knife and a memory card with execution videos that may be linked to IS.

However, asked if Akilov had acted with support from IS, prosecutor Ihrman said: "I don't want to get into that. He simply is an IS supporter." Akilov acted alone on the day of the attack, said Ihrman and nearly all the individuals he was in touch with before that day, including in online conversations, are abroad.

Swedish secret service Sapo has, during the 10-month investigation, tried to find information about potential assistants and to assess the risk of new attacks in Sweden. Eriksson, Akilov's defense lawyer, said his client has been cooperative during the investigation and has been detained under "harsh but fair" conditions, not having had contact with any friends or family members during his detention.

Ihrman said he would demand that Akilov gets a life sentence and that, in the event of an early release, he should be extradited from Sweden. Akilov, a construction worker who was 39 at the time of the attack, was hiding from the authorities after failing to adhere to a deportation order when his asylum application was rejected. He was ordered to leave Sweden in December 2016. Some commentators in Sweden say the attack could have been avoided has Sweden been tougher on immigration. The trial is scheduled to start on February 13 and last until May 9.

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