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Sweden axe attack: Police still investigating possible terrorist motive after seven injured

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Police are seen in the area after several people were attacked in Vetlanda, Sweden, Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Police are seen in the area after several people were attacked in Vetlanda, Sweden, Wednesday, March 3, 2021   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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Police in Sweden are investigating whether there was a "terrorist motive" behind a stabbing incident in Vetlanda on Wednesday.

Authorities had classified the attack as a "suspected terrorist crime" but have since downgraded it to a "suspected attempted murder".

But the country's prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said terrorism was being investigated as a possible motive.

"Yesterday, a man attacked several people in Vetlanda, innocent people were injured," Lofven added at a press conference on Thursday.

"The police were able to quickly arrest the man and several investigative measures are underway."

What do we know about the attack?

Authorities first received reports shortly before 3 pm CET that several people had been attacked with an "axe" near Bangårdsgatan.

The first police patrols arrived at the town's centre 10 minutes later.

Seven people were injured at several locations - including a grocery store and travel agents - in Vetlanda, a town around 190 kilometres from Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city.

The suspected attacker was shot in the leg by police at the scene and was arrested outside a school.

On Thursday, Deputy Regional Police Chief Carina Lennquist confirmed that the suspect was a 22-year-old man from Vetlanda.

"He has foreign citizenship, he is a citizen of Afghanistan," she added, "as far as we know, there is no connection between the perpetrator and the victims".

On Wednesday night, authorities had conducted searches at the man's home and other linked addresses.

What do we know about those injured?

All of the seven victims of the attack are male and from Vetlanda, according to the local police area manager, Jonas Lindell. They were all born between 1945 and 1985.

Three people suffered life-threatening injuries. Two others are seriously injured, two have moderate injuries and one has slight injuries, the Jonkoping region said in a statement late on Wednesday.

On Thursday, authorities confirmed that all the victims are "stable" and none have life-threatening injuries.

The suspected attacker, who was also injured, was taken to hospital by ambulance on Wednesday and is also being treated.

"The arrested person is injured but the situation is unclear," police said in an earlier statement.

What has been the reaction?

"My thoughts go mainly to the victims and their families, but also to the police who have to deal with such difficult situations," said National Police Chief Anders Thornberg. "We are now awaiting the investigation to see what motives and causes are behind it."

An investigation into police action during the arrest of the suspect has also been launched.

"Due to this investigation, the police will not comment further on the arrest and why the police have opened fire," the statement added.

Lofven condemned "this terrible act" and added that Sweden’s domestic security agency SAPO was also working on the case.

"They continuously assess whether there are reasons to take security-enhancing measures and are prepared to do so if necessary," he added in a statement.

In 2017, five people were killed when a truck was hijacked and deliberately driven into pedestrians on a busy shopping street in the centre of the capital city, Stockholm.

The attack was described as "the biggest crime ever committed" in the country.

This article has been updated to reflect that seven people were injured in the stabbing. Police had stated that eight people were affected but have since confirmed that this includes the suspect.

Additional sources • AP