Swedish authorities now have enough evidence to prove that the attack on April 7th points to the Islamic State group. Such evidence has come to light after Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov told reporters that Rakhmat Akilov, the suspect in custody, was recruited by the militant group in order to carry out the attack on Central Stockholm, which has left four dead and fifteen injured.
Reuters reports that the Uzbek Foreign Minister informed that Akilov was recruited by ISIS shortly after he had left Uzbekistan in 2014 and settled in Sweden. From there, he utilized social media platforms to encourage other extremists to travel to Syria and fight for Islamic State. When he arrived in Sweden, he attempted to establish residency by applying for asylum, but the Swedish board of Immigration rejected his application. Despite being told to voluntarily leave by December 2016, he eluded authorities in order to orchestrate the attack on the 7th.
Foreign Minister Kamilov also pointed out that the Uzbek secret services had sent warnings to its western partners a week before the attack so that Sweden could be warned. Swedish authorities, however, said that they never received these warnings.
Akilov, using a stolen beer truck, plowed through crowds of shoppers on Queen’s Street, leaving at least four dead. When heavily armed police ravaged through the truck, a bag of undetonated explosives was found, but Akilov was missing. It was later revealed that Akilov had burns on his arms after he tried to detonate the explosives.
This attack is Sweden’s worst terrorist attack in decades. Among the dead were a British man, a Belgian woman, and two Swedish civilians. Of the 15 wounded, ten are hospitalized, one of them being a child.
Rakhmat Akilov was arrested a few hours after the attack and would later confess to his crimes on April 11, as told by his lawyer to a court hearing. Prior to these attacks, he was wanted by Swedish authorities for evading deportation and was even blacklisted by Uzbek intelligence in February 2017 for religious extremism.
With these in mind, the Swedish public, along with the rest of Europe, are baffled by the fact that the 39-year-old Uzbek was able to slip away from capture until now.
ISIS has not yet gone public to claim this attack as its own, but this is likely due to the fact that the suspect was caught alive. ISIS often praises attacks when the perpetrator at hand has either died in action or killed by authorities.
This attack also shares similarities with other Islamic State attacks in Europe in terms of modus operandi and its sporadic nature. Unlike Al Qaeda, whose attacks are more heavily coordinated and often target symbolic and high-profile regions, the Islamic State adopts a mechanism that aims to attack random places in order to remain unpredictable and expand its options. Those who carry out the attacks are usually dissidents with little to no training, who are then called lone wolves by both authorities and the ISIS.
In reaction to this attack, thousands have come out to mourn the loss of lives by many placing flowers and holding candle light vigils in grievance and unity. Notable individuals such as the Prime Minster, the government, and even the Swedish princess have gone to the crash site to deliver their sympathies and pay tribute.