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Explosions rock Swedish capital: Authorities claim connection to Afghan war

By Reuters
Saturday, December 11, 2010 20:03 EDT
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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Two blasts rocked the center of Stockholm on Saturday in a possible attack inspired by Sweden’s presence in Afghanistan, killing the bomber and wounding two other people, police and media said.

Swedish news agency TT said that 10 minutes before the first blast, when a car exploded near a busy shopping street, it received an email with threats over the Swedish presence in Afghanistan and over a years-old case of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad by a Swedish artist.

Police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said the car exploded at peak shopping hours at 5 p.m. (12 p.m. EST). About 10 to 15 minutes later another explosion took place on a street 300 meters (984 ft) away.

A man was found dead near the second explosion and two people with minor injuries were also found nearby.

Asked if the man blew himself up in some way, Lindgren said: “It is possible.”

Investigations were continuing to see if the two incidents were linked, he said.

A bag found near the dead man had also been examined, but no more explosives were found in it, he said.

Newspaper Aftonbladet quoted a source as saying that the man was carrying six pipebombs, of which only one exploded. He also had a rucksack full of nails and suspected explosive material, the newspaper said.

TT said the email it received was also sent to the Security Police, which was not immediately available to comment.

TT said the threat was linked to Sweden’s contribution to the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan, where it has 500 soldiers, mainly in the north.

It also referred to caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad by the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who depicted the Prophet with the body of a dog in a cartoon in 2007. Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive.

The email had sound files in Swedish and Arabic.

“Our actions will speak for themselves, as long as you do not end your war against Islam and humiliation of the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks,” TT quoted a man as saying in one of the recordings.

Last March, an American who called herself “JihadJane” was charged with plotting to kill Vilks and using the Internet to enlist co-conspirators.

In May, arsonists tried to set fire to his house.

Vilks, contacted by Reuters Television, was safe.

“This is the first casualty of my project,” he said. “It was an act against the Swedish people to scare them and not to me. The good news was that a terrorist died and not someone else.”

Lindgren said it was not clear what caused the car to explode. After the first explosion, the gas canisters caused smaller blasts, he said.

MAN HELD STOMACH

Media reported scenes of panic among Christmas shoppers, with people fleeing amid smoke and the smell of explosives.

“It looked as if the man had carried something that exploded in his stomach,” Pascal, a trained medic, was quoted as saying on the website of newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

“He had no injuries to the face or body in general and the shops around were not damaged.”

Dany Daraghji, who works in a coffee shop near the scene of the first blast, said the area had been crowded.

“I heard a loud noise. I thought something fell…There were many people outside and here inside, some people went out to take photos,” he told Reuters.

In January, a Somali man was indicted for terrorism and attempted murder for breaking into the home of the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and threatening him with an axe.

A cartoon by Westergaard in 2005 that depicted the Prophet Mohammad with a turban shaped like a bomb caused outrage across the Muslim world, with at least 50 people killed in riots in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Lannin; Writing by Peter Millership; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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