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The Scene In Stockholm A Day After Attack


We turn now to Stockholm. Authorities have arrested a man they believe to be responsible for yesterday's truck attack. The prime minister of Sweden has described it as an act of terror. The truck plowed through a pedestrian mall in the heart of Stockholm before it smashed into a department store. Four people died. Fifteen people were injured. Magnus Norell studies terrorism as a scholar for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He joins us from Stockholm. Mr. Norell, thanks so much for being with us.

MAGNUS NORELL: Thanks for having me on.

SIMON: Help us understand this part of Stockholm and why it might figure as a target for someone who wants to instill fear in the heart of a city.

NORELL: Right. Well, if you want to do something in Stockholm, that will be the place to do it because it's smack in the middle of the city. It's a major pedestrian street, lots of shops and restaurants normally full of people, especially on a Friday afternoon. So if you really want to make an impact, that would be a logical place to strike.

SIMON: It's been targeted before, I gather, hasn't it?

NORELL: Well, yeah, but that was, yeah, seven years ago almost on exactly the same spot actually. There was an attempt suicide attack, but the perpetrator only managed to kill himself at that point.

SIMON: Yeah. Help us understand how, over the past few years, the atmosphere in Stockholm and in Sweden may have changed.

NORELL: Well, I mean, in theory of course, everybody here, as well as in other countries in Europe, we are aware of - that there is a threat picture here. So, you know, you - and the police, of course, have been saying for a number of years that, you know, something may happen. Sweden is not immune, even though cities like London and Paris and Berlin, of course, are more high-value targets. But, you know, there is - there's been a sense that something like this might happen. But this was the first. And when it does happen - because now this is the real thing - there is, I would say, mentally a lack of preparedness maybe, but that's normal because it's never happened before. So I think, you know, we will see. In time, we will find out how much will change, if anything, but (unintelligible).

SIMON: But what about the increase in immigrants? How is that figured into Sweden?

NORELL: Well, for starters, we don't know if this is related in any way yet, so - you know, in this particular incident. But of course the impact...

SIMON: I meant how it might be related to the reaction of the Swedish public.

NORELL: Yeah, all right, OK, sure. No, no, it's been a discussion for the last - especially the last year and a half since the fall of 2015 when we had this large influx of migrants. So of course, that very issue is on top of the agenda here. And it's already shown itself into the - you know, especially in social media when discussions about these terror attacks occurred. But again, I'd just like to emphasize this - so far we don't know if there is a connection, even though the perpetrator in custody is a foreign national, is Uzbekistan.

SIMON: And, may I ask, do Swede's feel more more vulnerable? Is there more calls for more preparation?

NORELL: That's a good question. I - the police have been saying that they are - sort of stepped up security, but I'm not sure that is really the case. I mean, again, you know, in theory, they say, you know, something might happen, but a truck attack like this is extremely difficult to defend yourself against, especially, you know, if you use a truck inside a city. It's not really a problem if you want to - it's a very, quote, unquote, "cheap way" of - a simple way of, you know, doing a lot of harm. So I think in the short term people will be more scared maybe.

SIMON: Magnus Norell in Stockholm, thanks very much for being with us, sir.

NORELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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