A man drove a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people in a popular shopping district in Stockholm on Friday afternoon and then rammed it into a department store, killing four people and injuring 15 others in an attack that unleashed bloodshed on the streets of another European capital.
“Sweden has been attacked,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement.
“All indications are that it was a terrorist attack.”
(WARNING – Graphic Content: Witnesses say the large vehicle drove into people in the Drottninggata area of the Swedish capital. Courtesy of TMZ and YouTube)
The police have “caught one person of particular interest,” Jan Evensson, the chief of regional police, said in a news conference Friday evening.
“He fits the description of the person in the photo we published,” he said, in reference to a photograph released by the police of a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
“We hope it’s the same guy.”
In a late-night news conference, the prime minister said: “Our whole country is in a state of shock. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.”
Mr. Lofven said control had been tightened on Sweden’s borders, and he praised Swedes for opening their homes to people who were stranded in the city as public transportation was shut down after the attack.
“If it’s a terrorist act, the aim is to undermine democracy, but such acts will never succeed in Sweden,” he said.
“Our message is clear: You will never ever win.”
The authorities said they did not know whether the episode was an isolated assault or something bigger.
The Swedish intelligence agency said “a large number” of people had been injured.
Mats Lofving, the head of the Swedish police’s national operations department, said, “This is now declared a national security event,” adding that officers across the nation were on heightened alert.
The Stockholm police confirmed on Twitter that four people were dead and 15 others wounded.
The Swedish Parliament was on lockdown, according to news reports.
Train service had resumed by the evening, but the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and avoid the city center.
(A hijacked beer truck drove into an upscale department store in central Stockholm on Friday, killing several people and injuring many more. Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal and YouTube)
The first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the attack unfolded in Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s busiest shopping street, the police said. Witnesses described a scene of panic and terror.
“I saw hundreds of people running; they ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the Ahlens department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.
Katarina Libert, 32, a freelance journalist, was trying on clothes at the department store when she heard a boom and the walls shook.
“We were running, we were crying, everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said.
“We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”
She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the Friday afternoon off to do some shopping.
“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said.
“Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”
After the assailant plowed into people, the front of the truck ended up inside the department store.
A representative of the Spendrups brewery told Radio Sweden that the vehicle had been taken earlier in the day. A spokesman for the company told SVT, a public broadcaster, that the truck had been stolen while the driver was loading it from the rear.
The brewery’s driver told the police that a masked man had stolen the vehicle, and that he had been injured trying to stop him, the authorities said.
The chief medical doctor at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.
“The injuries are quite serious, but for now I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.
Previous accounts of shots being fired in other parts of Stockholm were unfounded, the police said, adding that officers across Sweden were protecting high-risk sites.
Fears from the attack reverberated in neighboring Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in that nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice.
The assault in Stockholm came after several other episodes in Europe in the past year in which a vehicle was used to attack people.
The Islamic State revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.
In France, a man drove into a crowd on a busy seaside promenade during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice.
Another attacker plowed a truck into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin. And last month, an assailant drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge near Parliament in London.
Other attempts, including an episode in which a man tried to drive over pedestrians in Antwerp, Belgium, claimed no victims but have contributed to a sense of dread across the Continent.
Although some Swedes have expressed concern that immigration has led to a crime wave in the country — and President Trump seemed to suggest in a speech on Feb. 18 that there had been an attack in Sweden, when in fact nothing had occurred — the country and the region remain largely peaceful and safe.
The most notable exception came in 2010, when an assailant killed himself and wounded two others after detonating two bombs in central Stockholm, on a side street not far from where the attack on Friday took place.
The attack in 2010 was said to be the first suicide bombing in Scandinavia, and it caused consternation in Sweden. It was linked to an Iraqi-born Swede who had attended college in Britain.
On Friday, the police said they were well trained for these types of episodes. “Last week we rehearsed a similar scenario,” said Anders Thornberg, the chief of national intelligence.