Two men were arrested last night in the hunt for a terrorist who drove a lorry down a crowded pedestrian street in Stockholm, killing at least four people and injuring 15 more.
In an incident reminiscent of attacks in London, Berlin and Nice, a man hijacked a beer lorry that had stopped to make a delivery and moments later drove it directly into a crowd of mid-afternoon shoppers before crashing into an upmarket department store.
Police released a photograph of a man in an olive-green hooded jacket standing on an escalator, apparently holding a mobile phone. A man was arrested in the northern Stockholm suburb of Marsta after acting suspiciously in a shop.
Investigators said this morning that a 39-year-old man arrested on “suspicion of terrorist crime” was likely to be the driver of a truck.
A second man, said to be connected to the first, was detained later in Hjulsta, another northern suburb. Police have also taken in two people for questioning but said that that did not mean they were suspected of involvement.
It was reported by Swedish media that the suspect arrested for terrorist crimes is from Uzbekistan and had viewed Islamist propaganda videos on social media. Reports that explosives were found in the truck have not been verified.
Theresa May said she had spoken with Stefan Löfven, the prime minister of Sweden, this morning to offer condolences.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “She was clear that the UK stands firmly by Sweden’s side, and they agreed on the importance of working together to tackle these threats, which we all continue to face.”
Children were among the 15 injured, nine of whom were in a serious condition. Mr Lofven, the prime minister, called an emergency cabinet meeting last night. “Sweden has been attacked,” he said. “It all points to an act of terrorism.”
Outside parliament, the Swedish flag flew at half-mast today. Border controls have been tightened, with anybody leaving required to show identification. The lorry was driven straight at pedestrians on the busy shopping street shortly before 3pm and then rammed into the Ahlens department store near the central train station. There were unconfirmed reports of shootings at several locations around the city soon afterwards. “The attack was aimed at society at its most vulnerable, in the middle of the day,” Mr Lofven said.
Spendrups, the Swedish brewery company that owns the lorry, said that the vehicle had been hijacked moments before the attack. The driver was unloading it during a restaurant delivery when the attacker jumped in and drove away. The Spendrups driver is believed to have been clipped by the vehicle as he tried to intervene but suffered only minor injuries.
A witness to the attack told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper: “I saw the lorry. It was from a brewery. It is difficult to guess how fast it was going, but it was probably 100km/h. It drove into the middle of the street and knocked down people who were there. Those on the side of the street were fine. I saw three people lying down. One of them was badly hurt. I don’t know if they were alive. The police came and shouted at us to get out of there as fast as possible.”
Helena Dahl, another witness, said: “It doesn’t get scarier than this. I’ve been so scared every time it has happened in other cities. I always think the area where we work is a perfect target because it’s so busy — and now it’s happened. It will be really scary to go back to work on Monday.”
Ms Dahl, who works on Drottninggatan street, the scene of the attack, said she would be walking home with two colleagues after the city centre was put into lockdown, with parliamentary proceedings wrapped up abruptly and all public transport cancelled.
“We were having a coffee break on the second floor when the lorry drove into the crowds so we didn’t see the incident itself,” Sandra Rojmar, one of Ms Dahl’s colleagues, said. “But when we went outside we saw the devastating scene. It was pure chaos. People were running around, confused. I saw one person receiving CPR.”
Anders Thornberg, head of the Swedish intelligence services, said: “All our resources are activated and we are well trained. Just this week we trained for a similar scenario. We are focusing on the intelligence work, on who may be behind this.”
Staffan Lindberg, a journalist, tweeted soon after the incident: “Policewoman just said: Get back! There is a gunman shooting up there” and “Smells of smoke. Police in gas masks. Have never seen a police operation like this in Stockholm before.”
Mr Lofven declared that Sweden had become the latest European city to be attacked by a terrorist. “Everything indicates that this is a terrorist attack,” he said. “The government is doing everything to support the authorities who are dealing with the situation.”
A group of newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan were on an excursion at a museum in central Stockholm when news of the attack broke. One of them, Abbas Barati, 17, said: “It feels really strange. It happens every day in Afghanistan but not here.”
Nathalie Rothschild, Stockholm | David Charter | August Graham