UK Muslims saw Stockholm bomber as radical

Officials look into how he escaped notice

A police officer watched as a car was removed from outside the house in Luton, England, searched yesterday by British police. A police officer watched as a car was removed from outside the house in Luton, England, searched yesterday by British police. (Akira Suemori/ Associated Press)
By Jill Lawless
Associated Press / December 14, 2010

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LONDON — At his local mosque in England, Taimour Abdulwahab alarmed elders with his extreme views on Islam. On the Internet, he posted videos of Chechen fighters and abused Iraqi prisoners.

On Saturday, officials say, he died in a botched suicide bombing in Stockholm.

Authorities are now trying to learn when he was radicalized, whether he had accomplices — and how a man whose radical views were displayed both online and in person escaped official notice.

Swedish prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said yesterday that authorities are certain the suicide bomber who terrified pre-Christmas shoppers was Abdulwahab, an Iraqi-born Swede who spent much of the past decade in Britain.

He said Abdulwahab was completely unknown to Swedish security police before the blasts, which killed the bomber and injured two others.

Lindstrand said officials would look into why he was not on their radar, but pointed out “that he didn’t live in Sweden, he lived in the UK, he left Sweden maybe 10 years ago.’’ He said that Swedish security does not generally analyze people’s Facebook pages.

US and Swedish officials said that a team of FBI bomb experts had been dispatched to Sweden to help analyze the explosives.

Lindstrand said it appeared Abdulwahab was alone in executing the blasts but could have been assisted by someone else in their preparation. He said that despite its apparent failure, the bombing appeared to be well-planned.

The attack has shocked Swedes, who cherish their country’s image as an open, tolerant society. But it could have been far worse.

Lindstrand said Abdulwahab had bombs strapped to his body, more in a backpack, and also carried something that looked like a pressure-cooker. He said parts of the explosives probably detonated early by mistake, averting more casualties.

“He was well-equipped with bomb material, so I guess it isn’t a too daring guess to say he was on his way to a place where there were as many people as possible’’ — such as a subway station or department store, he said.

A British official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work would not comment on whether Abdulwahab had been on the radar as a suspected terrorist. But he said all threats stemming from controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed — cited by the suspect as a motive for the attack — were being closely investigated.

Lars Vilks, whose 2007 depiction of the prophet has drawn regular threats from extremists, said he was shocked that suicide bombings have come to Sweden.

“It’s a little unreal that we have such a case here,’’ he said, adding pointing out that police had increased their presence outside his home following the botched attack.

Law enforcement and intelligence agents are poring over Abdulwahab’s Facebook page, along with his profile from a Muslim dating website, for clues to his mind-set and movements.

According to information on the dating website — where Abdulwahab posted a profile saying he was looking for a second wife — he was born in Baghdad and moved to Sweden as a child in 1992.

In 2001, he moved to Britain to study at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, near London. The university confirmed that a student with his name and Swedish nationality graduated with a degree in sports therapy in 2004.

What he did next is not clear, but by late 2006 or early 2007 he began attending the Luton Islamic Center, a local mosque. Its secretary, Farasat Latif, said the newcomer was “very friendly, bubbly — he was well liked.’’

But soon Abdulwahab began making extremist statements focused on “suicide bombings, pronouncing Muslim leaders to be disbelievers, denouncing Muslim governments.’’ top stories on Twitter

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