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Suspect identified in Sweden bombings

Man was killed in explosions that shocked country

By John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya
New York Times / December 13, 2010

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STOCKHOLM — A day after two explosions struck central Stockholm, killing the man suspected of being a suicide bomber and wounding two other people, investigators began to focus on the possibility that the person responsible was a disaffected Iraqi-born Swede who had attended college in Britain.

Reports in British and Swedish newspapers, citing government sources, identified the man as Taimour al-Abdaly, a 28-year-old Sunni Muslim whose family moved to Sweden from Baghdad in 1992. Attempts by the New York Times to independently confirm the reports were not immediately successful, and Swedish officials declined to comment, saying the bomber’s identity was part of the investigation.

But the suspect’s possible link to Britain was reinforced last night when the Metropolitan Police in London said officers were searching a property at an address in Bedfordshire, the county in which Abdaly is believed to have attended college. A spokesman said the search was made “in connection with the incidents in Stockholm.’’

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden told reporters at a news conference yesterday that an investigation led by the Swedish domestic intelligence agency SAPO was still working to establish links among the two explosions, the dead man found with blast wounds to his abdomen, and threatening messages sent to the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra shortly before the explosions.

Reinfeldt, head of a center-right coalition, said the police were “treating this as a terrorist action,’’ but appealed to Swedes not to jump to “the wrong conclusions’’ or allow preliminary reports about the explosions to stir tensions over Sweden’s growing immigrant population, which includes about 450,000 Muslims.

Reinfeldt added that the blasts were unacceptable in Sweden’s “open society.’’

“Our democracy functions well,’’ he said. “Those who feel frustration or anger have the opportunity to express it without resorting to violence.’’

The first blast came from a car parked on a busy shopping street in Stockholm shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday. It appeared to involve gas canisters found in the wreckage. A second blast came minutes later, about 200 yards away. A man’s body, with blast injuries to his abdomen, was discovered after that explosion.

The newspaper Aftonbladet reported on its website that the dead man had been carrying pipe bombs and a backpack full of nails. But the sequence left many unanswered questions. Among them was why the suicide bomber, if that is what he was, had detonated his bomb in an area with relatively few people when he could have chosen any one of the crowded shops along Drottninggatan, a pedestrian mall hundreds of yards long.

Other questions focused on the messages received by several Swedish news organizations. Dan Skeppe, an editor at Tidningarnas Telegrambyra, said the agency had received recordings attached to an e-mail minutes before the blasts. The statements, obtained by the New York Times, were made in Arabic, Swedish, and English. In one recording, a man, speaking in fluent and scarcely accented English, addressed himself to Sweden.

He read haltingly from what was apparently a prepared script and said that Swedes had brought “these actions’’ on themselves. The message singled out Lars Vilks, a cartoonist threatened repeatedly with death since publishing a derogatory cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in 2007, and it demanded European nations withdraw their soldiers from Afghanistan.

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