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Sweden: Four dead after truck plows into crowd in Stockholm 'terror attack'

Emergency services work at the scene where a truck crashed into the Ahlens department store on Drottninggatan in central Stockholm on April 7, 2017
Jonathan NACKSTRAND (AFP)
Police say still hunting truck driver; PM announces Sweden will strengthen border controls

At least four people were killed and 15 others injured, including children, after a stolen truck plowed into a crowd in the capital of Stockholm on Friday in what Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has deemed "a terror attack."

"I can confirm that four people died and 12 were injured," Stockholm police spokesman Lars Bystrom said, as local media put the number of dead as high as five.

Swedish police are still hunting the driver of the truck used in the attack, police said.

Bystrom confirmed the arrest of a man earlier in the evening in northern Stockholm, but would not comment on media reports that he confessed to carrying out the attack. He also did not say if the detained man was the suspect whose grainy picture the police released earlier in the day.

Local media reported that a truck, confirmed by Swedish beer company Spendrups to have been hijacked, slammed into a crowd at corner of the Ahlens department store and the city's biggest pedestrian street, above-ground from Stockholm's central subway station just before 1300 GMT.

"Sweden has been attacked, everything points to an act of terrorism," Prime Minister Lofven said. If confirmed, it would be the country's first deadly terror attack.

Lofven later announced that Sweden would strengthen its border controls in the wake of the attack. Neighboring countries also boosted security at airports and major transportation hubs.

Lofven had said immediately following the attack that one suspect person had been arrested, but Swedish police later said that they were still attempting to make contact with truck driver and released CCTV images of a man wearing a white sweater and dark hoodie under a military green jacket, with dark stubble on his face.

Witnesses said helicopters could be heard hovering in the sky as a large number of police cars and ambulances were dispatched to the scene. Police vans circulated the city using loudspeakers urging people to go straight home and avoid large crowds.

Subway traffic in the city was reopened after being suspended for several hours following the attack. But all trains to and from Stockholm's central station were cancelled for the day.

Local health authorities said that one person died in hospital and 15 others, including children, are injured. Nine are in serious condition.

There were also reports of shots fired at Fridhemsplan, in an other part of Stockholm, following the truck attack. It was not immediately clear whether the two incidents were connected.

Facebook activated its safety "check in" feature for Stockholm following the attack.

- Latest truck attack in Europe -

World leaders and European politicians reacted with solidarity to the news of the attack.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the attack was a blow struck against all EU countries.

"An attack on any of our member states is an attack on us all," Juncker said in a message of condolences to the victims, adding the aim appeared to strike at "our very way of life."

The incident follows a series of attacks in Europe by people using vehicles as weapons.

The worst such attack was last year in France on the July 14 Bastille Day national holiday, in which a man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people. He was shot dead by police, and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

French President Francois Hollande said of the attack in Stockholm that the "unrelenting struggle against terrorism must be a priority of European solidarity."

Jonathan NACKSTRAND (AFP)

Berlin was the site of a deadly vehicular attack in December, when a man hijacked a truck and slammed into shoppers at a Christmas market killing 12 people. That attacker was shot dead by police in Milan four days later, and the rampage was claimed by the Islamic State terror group.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "Our thoughts go out to the people in Stockholm, to the injured, their relatives, rescuers and police. We stand together against terror."

Last month, Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old convert to Islam known to British security services, drove a car at high speed into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before launching a frenzied knife attack on a policeman guarding the parliament building.

The incident killed five people, while Masood himself was shot dead by police.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he was "deeply concerned by shocking incident in Stockholm."

"Britain's thoughts are with the victims, their families and the whole of Sweden," he said.

Jonathan NACKSTRAND (AFP)

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted after the attack: "Our thoughts are with the people of Stockholm. Terror is terror: the whole free world must unite against it."

On Thursday, an Israeli soldier was killed and another injured in a vehicular attack, which has become a common means of terror attacks in Israel since an uptick in violence began in October 2015.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack and expressed hope that those responsible for the attack are swiftly brought to justice.

Leaders from Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and Canada all also sent messages of condolence and solidarity.

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