Swedish suicide bomber likely left crowd to fix bomb: Police

A suicide bomber narrowly missed wreaking carnage in Stockholm last weekend.

Last Updated: Dec 17, 2010, 08:53 AM IST

Stockholm: The suicide bomber who narrowly missed wreaking carnage in Stockholm last weekend likely blew himself up as he fixed a technical glitch, police speculated on Thursday.

"Our current picture of the final movements of the bomber was that he had trouble exploding the device and was therefore moving back and forth close to the street where he was found," Jan Garton, a security chief with intelligence agency Saepo, said.

"We think he may have had some kind of problem with the equipment ... and walked away from Drottninggatan," Anders Thornberg, the agency`s other security chief, also told a Stockholm news conference.

Drottninggatan is Stockholm`s busiest pedestrian thoroughfare, which last Saturday afternoon was bustling with Christmas shoppers when the bomber, named as Taymour Abdelwahab, blew himself up in an empty side-street.

Thornberg stressed that this was just a theory, pointing out that the investigation is still in its initial stage.

"We are not ruling anything out and we are holding all doors open ... We don`t want to get locked into any specific lead," he said.

Investigators have so far refused officially to confirm the identity of Saturday`s bomber, since DNA results from Wednesday`s autopsy have yet to be released, but have not denied other reports that it was Abdelwahab.

Thornberg said formal identification should be clear "within days”.

The bomber was carrying a cocktail of explosives and is believed to have detonated one charge prematurely on what appeared to be a mission to kill as many people as possible, prosecutor Thomas Lindstrand said on Monday.

He killed only himself, but two people were injured when his car exploded nearby minutes earlier.

Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstroem, who has taken over as head prosecutor on the case, said on Thursday Swedish investigators, with the help of seven experts sent from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, were "pretty sure what kind of explosives have been used”.

It was, however, too early to go public with the information, she said.

Police have yet to determine if the bomber had any helpers, and police and prosecutors refused on Thursday to reveal details of the investigation.

"One important priority of the investigation is to know whether he was alone or whether he had accomplices. That`s all I can say for now," was all Garton would say.

According to a report by the Svenska Dagbladet daily on Thursday however, British police were seeking links between Abdelwahab, who in recent years lived near London with his wife and three children, and radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza.

Quoting sources familiar with the case, the paper said police were searching for a connection to Hamza, an Egyptian-born former imam of the once-notorious Finsbury Park mosque in north London, who was jailed in Britain for seven years in 2007 for inciting followers to murder non-believers.

And Sweden`s TV4 reported the sound analysis of the audio message the Stockholm bomber sent to police and media shortly before the twin explosions showed he had at least one accomplice.

"There are at least two people" heard on the message, sound technician Johan Oehgren told the commercial broadcaster.

"It is not possible to speak while breathing in. You can clearly hear there is someone else in the room," he added.

Jan Garton of Saepo reiterated to reporters in Stockholm on Thursday that the current terrorism threat level, which was raised in October to "elevated", would not be raised further for the time being.

"At this point in time we have no reason to adjust our terror threat to Sweden or to Swedish interests," he said.

A group of around 500 Shi’ite Muslims, meanwhile, marched throw a Stockholm snow storm on Thursday afternoon to condemn the attack, carrying signs stating "No place for terrorists" and "Peace, Peace, Peace”.

Bureau Report