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Europe

Sweden Mourns Loss of a Beloved Leader

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died early on Thursday morning, after she was stabbed by an unidentified man in a Stockholm department store on Wednesday.

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Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was a leading campaigner for the introduction of the euro.

Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, one of Sweden’s most popular and respected politicians and a leading pro-euro campaigner, succumbed to her serious injuries in a hospital in Stockholm on Thurssday morning.

Lindh was stabbed in the chest, stomach and arms by an unidentified Swedish man in a department store on Wednesday. She was admitted in critical condition to Stockholm’s Karolinksa hospital and underwent immediate surgery.

Karolinska hospital said in a statement that Lindh died of "massive bleeding caused by knife wounds to the liver and many of the big blood vessels in the abdomen".

Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson said Lindh’s loss would be felt deeply by the nation. "I have received with sorrow, information that Sweden's Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died this morning at 5:29 a.m. (3:29 GMT) of her wounds," Persson told a news conference on Thursday morning. "Sweden has lost one of its most important representatives."

European leaders joined in paying tributes to a person German Foriegn Minister Joschka Fisher called "a great European, a great foreign minister and also a good friend." German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder added, "Her engagement for world peace and human rights and for the union of Europe in particular will be missed."

Italian Prime Minister and incumbent president of the European Union Silvio Berlusconi called Lindh's murder "a tragedy" while French President Jacques Chirac recalled her as "a woman of extraordinary cheerfulness and kindness."

As flags flew at half mast across Europe, the grief stretched over the Atlantic, prompting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to say, "She had a special energy, integrity and compassion and she spent a great deal of her time focusing her efforts on global humanitarian issues." President George W. Bush said in a statement that he was "shocked and saddened" by the death of "a tireless advocate of freedom and peace."

Killing rekindles Swedish security fears

It’s the first political assassination in Sweden since the unsolved murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. It is not uncommon for politicians in Sweden -- which enjoys a relatively low crime rate -- to travel without the protection of body guards.

"For the Swedish people it brings back all the old horrible memories of Olof Palme," Green Party leader Peter Eriksson told the French news agency AFP. "It might mean Swedish politicians need security guards everywhere they go from now on," Eriksson said. "I sincerely hope it doesn't lead to that."

"An attack against democracy"

"This is a horrible tragedy and an attack against our democracy," Persson said on Wednesday before announcing he would suspend all campaign efforts in the lead up to Sweden’s referendum on euro zone membership scheduled for Sunday. But Persson and police refused to speculate on the motives behind the attack.

Anna Lindh gestorben

Anna Lindh

Lindh, was doing some personal shopping in the upscale NK department store in downtown Stockholm, unaccompanied by body guards, at the time of the attack. Numerous witnesses said a 1.8 meter tall (6 foot tall) man wearing a military jacket suddenly attacked the foreign minister with a knife and later escaped, drenched in blood.

The foreign minister was one of Swedan’s strongest supporters for the introduction of the euro, Europe’s common currency -- a campaign that has divided the Scandinavian country. Lindh, 46, had served as foreign minister since 1998. She was married to a former government minister and is survived by two children.

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