My family were two streets away from Drottninggatan when the hijacked truck was driven into pedestrians this afternoon. It’s the busiest shopping street in Stockholm, all the busier with the Easter holidays approaching. The lorry drove at speed down Drottninggatan then smashed into the entrance of Åhléns, the biggest department store in the city. The city is in lockdown, its MPs told to stay in parliament and the underground system closed – leaving shoppers (my wife included) stranded in town, checking their phones and trying to find out what’s going on. Three have been reported dead so far, with ten seriously injured.
After the truck and car attacks in Nice, Berlin and Westminster everyone’s first thought is that Stockholm is the latest victim of the jihadist menace. This is not necessarily the case: while Sweden is famously peaceful it does see occasional spectacular acts of violence. Olof Palme, a Prime Minister, was shot dead in 1986 and Anna Lindh, a foreign secretary, was fatally stabbed in a department just down from Åhléns in 2003. In that year, a man drove a car into pedestrians in Stockholm’s old town: he was deranged, with no terrorist intent.
But recently, Swedes have come to associate new types of violence with the mass influx of refugees and the subsequent criminal shadow culture. A British boy was killed in a grenade attack in Gothenburg last year, caught up in gangland wars. When I was in Sweden in February, a man was shot dead in Malmö town square on the day that I arrived – and it wasn’t even that big a news story over there. Sweden’s criminal underworld is now quite advanced, with its own moral codes and even its own legal system. Tribal courts are now in operation, dealing with crimes – or, at least, what count as crimes in the underworld. The fine for a failed attempted murder is about £50,000, according to Malmö’s chief prosecutor. Of the 37 murders and attempted murders in the first half of last year, just seven have been solved. But what are police to do, when witnesses drop out and victims drop the charges?
Officers admit that, when child refugees go missing from care homes – feared to have been passed into prostitution, criminal gangs or jihadism – there is not much they can do. Then comes the phenomenon of the thousands whose asylum appeal is rejected: they are supposed to be deported, but they instead disappear into the Swedish underworld. This arena of lawlessness, a society within a society, leaves those within it unprotected by the law. It also creates fertile conditions for Islamic terrorism with a striking number leaving to join the Islamic State. Which is probably why the Swedish Prime Minister has immediately declared today’s murders to be a terrorist attack. There’s reports of undetonated explosives being found in his truck.
While my wife was passing the time, waiting for the trains to run again, she went into a flower shop and was told by the owner that today’s attack is the government’s fault. They let in refugees with no plan to care for them, they have been unable to cope with the surge in criminality, that the only way to make the city safe is to close the mosques and kick the asylum seekers out. And this before we know anything of the identity of the attacker.
This is the strange thing about Sweden: it’s still one of the most beautiful, inspiring countries in Europe. But there’s an underbelly now, both of immigrant criminality and a reaction to it. The backlash is huge, and horribly potent. The anti-migrant Sweden Democrats, a party that make Ukip sound like the Liberal Democrats, recently emerged as the most popular party in Sweden – and the country has elections coming up.
Anyway, for the second time in as many weeks, my Facebook page is full of friends reporting themselves as “safe”. As Douglas Murray recently said: for Europe, this is the new normal.
UPDATE: A 39-year-old from Uzbekistan, an asylum seeker whose appeal to stay in Sweden had been rejected, has been arrested. Security camera footage has emerged of the truck speeding down the pavement, and shoppers fleeing for their lives. As the below footage shows, it’s a miracle that no more were killed.
Filmen visar när fredagslugnet i centrala Stockholm förbyts mot panik – när lastbilen vansinneskör på Drottninggatan. pic.twitter.com/qGTcOwJUi7
— Expressen (@Expressen) April 7, 2017