Swedish police say they have almost certainly identified a Middle East-born man as the bomber who blew himself up in Stockholm on Saturday. They say he may have had accomplices and may have missed his target.
Swedish police have all but nailed down the identity of the bomber
A Middle-East born man killed in a blast in Stockholm at the weekend was wearing explosives around his waist and likely meant to attack a train station or department store when the bomb exploded prematurely, officials said Monday.
Sweden's chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said he assumed the man had accomplices, as the attack seemed to be well-planned. A car containing gas containers blew up in a busy shopping area in Stockholm on Saturday, followed by another explosion nearby minutes later.
"If it had all exploded at the same time it could have caused very serious damage," Lindstrand told a news conference. "It is not a very wild guess that he was headed to some place where there were as many people as possible, perhaps the central station, perhaps [the department store] Ahlens."
Sweden has not yet raised its terrorist threat level
The second explosion killed the suspected bomber and injured two others. The blasts came shortly after an e-mail was sent to Swedish news agency TT, saying they were in retaliation for Sweden's presence in Afghanistan and caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad drawn several years ago by Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.
TT added that a similar message had been sent to Sweden's domestic intelligence agency, Saepo.
Residence in England
Lindstrand confirmed media reports that the suspected bomber was Taymour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, 29. According to a recent post by Al-Abdaly on a Muslim dating website, he was born in Iraq and moved to Sweden in 1992, before moving to the UK to study in Luton, Bedfordshire. Media reports said he graduated in 2004.
UK police have identified and begun searching a property in Luton, just north of London, in connection with the bombing. They believe the property may have been a previous residence of the suspected bomber.
According to reports in the British daily The Telegraph, neighbors said Al-Abdaly was seen at the house as recently as two and a half weeks ago.
A police spokesman said early on Monday that no arrests had yet been made and no hazardous materials found.
The car bomb exploded minutes before the man's explosives belt went off nearby
FBI to assist in probe
Swedish police have accepted an offer of help from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The police said the FBI was sending seven bomb experts to help investigate the attack.
They said the FBI team included specialists with "extensive knowledge" about terrorist methods used in similar bomb attacks elsewhere in the world.
At this stage, security authorities believe the attack was likely not connected to Al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations. An explosives expert of the Swedish military said the bombing appeared to be the work of an "amateur."
Nonetheless, the bombings have sparked debate around Europe as to how governments should handle attacks in the future.
The German Police Officers' Union on Monday called on the German government to employ a more consistent approach to addressing terrorism threats.
"Germany has moved increasingly into focus for terrorists, due mainly to our strong engagement in Afghanistan," police union leader Rainer Wendt told the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper. "We're not optimally prepared for this."
Hans-Peter Uhl, parliamentary interior policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, demanded the speedy introduction of a visa alert system to warn of potential terrorist threats.
"Of course we need a visa warning system. It would be right to accuse our politicians of irresponsibility if terrorists were allowed to enter [the country] unchecked with German visas," Uhl told the Leipziger Volkszeitung.
Author: Andrew Bowen, Darren Mara (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Chuck Penfold