Stockholm Terror Attack: The Aftermath
Right now, Swedish ministers and party leaders are taking a break from fighting over, for example, counter-terrorism legislation; their priority is national cohesion and to show their sympathies with all those affected. But the debate on whether the laws are strict enough will soon begin, says Swedish NPR political commentator Fredrik Furtenbach. This debate will also cover issues relating to what the arrested Uzbek national was doing in Sweden.
In broad terms, the Swedish government is functioning very well at the moment. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs have stepped up to a level of statesmanesque leadership while communication channels from both the government and the police are working flawlessly. Had a similar attack occurred two years ago, neither the government nor the police would have managed this. Above all, Mr. Ygeman, Minister for Home Affairs, the Stockholm police and the Swedish Security Service all appear as good role models, even if others – including Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Wallström – generally perform at the peak of their abilities. Just like a government is supposed to function.
The press conference at 1:30 pm Saturday was a prime example of superior crisis communication. Structured and open, with new, relevant information: The attacker’s nationality.
However, his nationality had been known on the online forum Flashback.org since early morning, and the police had probably wanted to hold onto that information. But the pressure from Flashback as well as from foreign websites cannot be ignored indefinitely. In the end the police has to start letting the information out. And there are other details of the perpetrator on Flashback that, when they are made public and if they are correct, will increase the pressure on the government in general and the ministers Mr. Ygeman and his superior, Minister for Justice and Migration Mr. Morgan Johansson, in particular.
What was the offender doing in Sweden and how did he support himself? The answers can seemingly be found on the Flashback.org forum, which has been right so far.
If the information on the perpetrator’s motivations and details about him in general are correct, both national police chief Dan Eliasson and former head of the Swedish Migration Agency, Anders Danielsson, need to provide answers regarding how this was allowed to pass. And what, or who, were behind the fact that Mr. Ygeman and Mr. Johansson consistently looked away from increasingly concerned whistleblowers and constantly dismissed a certain type of questions.
Another disturbing detail is that the Stockholm suburb of Märsta now reappears. The existence of a radicalized environment in Märsta is nothing new. As recently as last year, it was discovered that the Algerian national, 35-year-old Mohamed Belkaid, presumed to have been involved in the Paris attacks, previously lived in Märsta. Per Gudmundson Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet has previously mapped the Islamist environment in Märsta, which includes speeches held by hate-mongering preachers at meetings organized by Young Muslims of Sweden. Preachers who have repeatedly spoken out in positive terms about the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
The Sigtuna/Märsta area is one of the core municipalities of the Social Democratic Party, and I briefly served there as political secretary. For some reason, I can now piece together the details of my experience there. A strong resistance from some stakeholders, both Social Democratic Party members and members of then-partner Swedish Green Party, to taking the signals of radicalization seriously. Now, Märsta is on the radar again. It is hardly a coincidence. The police doesn’t believe in coincidence.
Even if the coming days, and perhaps the coming week, will be marked by reflection and more low-key political debate, the day of reckoning will come. Then Mr. Ygeman, Mr. Johansson, Mr. Löfven – and also Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Danielsson – need to come up with an explanation. Blaming the previous administration will not be accepted by the voters, since many have voiced their concerns about which environments breed this type of terror. Voices which have been dismissed as racist, Nazi or just flat out kooks. But these are the voices that now, unfortunately, were right. And all those who have been pointing fingers and played the racist card have shown to consistently have been wrong.
Just like the police have knowledge of the environments in which the Trollhättan terrorist was shaped as a “lone wolf” – on online forums – we all know in which environment the brutal killers who have the capability, the willingness and the violent disposition and ideological motivation to implement attacks such as the one on Drottninggatan in Stockholm are thriving.