Christmas carnage as suicide bomber blasts Swedish capital

STOCKHOLM city centre was rocked yesterday as two explosions erupted, killing one man and claiming another two victims.

• Police forensics experts examine the remains of the suspected suicide bomber. Picture: AFP/Getty

A car explosion and what appeared to be a suicide attack injured two people, killed the apparent bomber, and caused panic among Christmas shoppers.

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Stockholm Police spokeswoman Petra Sjolander said a car exploded near Drottninggatan, a busy shopping street in the centre of the city. A short time later a second explosion was heard higher up on the same street, and a man was found injured on the ground. He was later pronounced dead.

Sjolander said it was unclear what caused the second explosion and whether the two blasts were linked, but said a police bomb squad has been sent to the site.

Ten minutes before the blasts, Swedish news agency TT received an e-mail saying "the time has come to take action."

The message said the threat was linked to Sweden's presence in Afghanistan, where it has a force of 500 soldiers, mainly in the north. TT said the warning, which was also sent to Sweden's Security Police (SAPO), was received 10 minutes before the blasts,

According to the news agency, the e-mail also referred to Sweden's silence surrounding artist Lars Vilk's cartoon depicting Muhammad as a dog.

"Now your children, daughters and sisters shall die like our brothers and sisters and children are dying."

It went on: "Our actions will speak for themselves, as long as you do not end your war against Islam and humiliation of the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks," TT quoted a man as saying in one of the sound files.

Police said they were aware of the e-mail, which had also been addressed to Sweden's security police, but could not immediately confirm a link to the explosions.

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Two people were taken to the hospital with less serious injuries. It was not immediately clear in which explosion they were hurt.

Rescue services spokesman Roger Sverndal said the car that exploded contained gas canisters.

Gabriel Gabiro, a former journalist, heard the second explosion from inside a watch store across the street and saw smoke coming from the area where the man was lying.

"There was a man lying on the ground with blood coming out in the area of his belly, and with his personal belongings scattered around him," he said.

Gabiro said the blast was "quite loud" and he saw people running from the site.

"It shook the store that I was in," he said. "Then there was smoke and gun powder coming into the store.I saw some people crying, perhaps from the shock."

Last night forensic experts prepared to examine the wreckage of the white Audi estate.

The threat to Sweden of a terrorist attack was changed for the first time in September.

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Mystery surrounded the security service SAPO's decision to raise the terror alert from "low" to "elevated" for the first time.

At the time SAPO said that "the assessment is based on intelligence indicating a shift in activities among certain groups in Sweden, judged to be targeted at Sweden".

The director general of SAPO previously explained that the threat to Sweden "is not currently assessed to be imminent". However, he refused to comment on who might be behind the threat. At the time the agency also pointed out that "compared with the situation in several other European countries, the threat level to Sweden is still low."