The Herald (South Africa)

Stockholm attacker pleads guilty

- Gael Brancherea­u

AN Uzbek asylum seeker pleaded guilty to terrorism charges yesterday for a Stockholm truck attack that killed five people in April last year, after identifyin­g multiple targets in a city he described as full of “infidels”.

Rakhmat Akilov appeared handcuffed in Stockholm’s special high-security courtroom, wearing green prison clothes and with a shaved head and a beard, accompanie­d by his lawyer Johan Eriksson.

Akilov, whose Swedish asylum applicatio­n had been rejected in 2016, had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group on the eve of his assault in one of Europe’s safest cities, though the jihadist group never claimed responsibi­lity.

On the afternoon of Friday April 7, Akilov stole a beer delivery truck and barrelled down a bustling pedestrian shopping street, swerving wildly to hit as many people as possible.

Three Swedes were killed, including an 11-year-old girl, as well as a 41year-old British man and a 31-year-old Belgian woman. Ten others were injured. “Akilov took the truck and drove it. He killed five people and physically injured 10. The lives of a large number of people were put in danger,” Eriksson told the court.

“The motive was to instigate fear and to get Sweden to end its participat­ion in the coalition against the Islamic State.”

The non-Nato country has about 70 military personnel based mainly in northern Iraq to provide training as part of the US-led coalition against IS.

Akilov, who turns 40 today, ended his rampage by crashing the truck into the facade of a department store and detonating an explosive device, though it did not explode as planned and caused damage only to the truck.

He told investigat­ors he had planned to die in the assault.

Akilov fled the scene by running into a nearby metro station, and was arrested hours later thanks to public transport video surveillan­ce images. He confessed in police questionin­g. Prosecutor­s have said they will seek a life sentence and, thereafter, his expulsion from the Scandinavi­an country. A life sentence in Sweden varies, but is on average 16 years.

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