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Stockholm Terrorist Attack

Sweden has been hit by an apparent suicide bomber:

One man was killed and two other people were injured when two explosions hit the heart of Stockholm’s city-center shopping district on Saturday evening, the police in the Swedish capital said. The country’s foreign minister called the blasts a terrorist attack, and an e-mail to news organizations minutes before the blasts seemed to link them to anger over anti-Islamic cartoons and the war in Afghanistan.

The police said that a car parked near the busy shopping street of Drottninggatan exploded first, shortly before 5 p.m. Stockholm time, and that the wreckage of the vehicle included gas canisters. A second blast followed minutes later, and about 200 yards from the first. A man’s body, with blast injuries to his abdomen, was discovered after the second explosion.

Swedish newspapers portrayed the dead man as a suicide bomber, and the newspaper Aftonbladet said on its Web site that he had been carrying pipe bombs and a backpack full of nails. But the police declined to confirm this. “We are in the middle of a technical investigation, and we are working methodically to find out what happened,” said a police spokeswoman, Petra Sjolander, who refused to speculate about whether the blasts were a terrorist attack.

Still, comments from Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on his Twitter account did not attempt to hedge the issue. His post read: “Most worrying attempt at terrorist attack in crowded part of central Stockholm. Failed — but could have been truly catastrophic…”

Indeed it could.   We’ve been lucky in two respects.  First, most of the terrorist attacks in the West since the 9/11 attacks — now more than nine years ago — have been spectacularly inept.  Second, we’ve thus far been spared by the classical suicide bombers of the type that have plagued Israel for something like a quarter century.

Given that the security measures needed to defend against the latter are so onerous that they’re intolerable in a free society — indeed, a society which would tolerate them for more than the occasional high value target could not reasonably be described as “free” — it’s only a matter of time.

More on the email:

Minutes before the explosions, a Swedish news agency received an e-mail that contained a call to arms to Muslim fighters and a threat to take revenge for Sweden’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan and for caricatures of the prophet Muhammad by a Swedish artist. The e-mail came attached with audio files in Swedish and Arabic.
“Now your children, daughters and sisters will die just like our brothers, sisters and children are dying,” the e-mail said. “Our actions will speak for themselves.”

The e-mail lashed out at Swedes for their “war against Islam,” for “denigrating the prophet” and for their “stupid support of the pig Vilks,” a reference to the artist Lars Vilks, whose drawings of Muhammad as a dog sparked controversy in 2007.

One hopes that the mass reaction to this is to double down in support of freedom rather than cowering at the thought of offending these fanatics.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not sure whose string of luck is about to end. IMO the lesson of the last ten years is that failed terrorist attempts are more effective than successful ones–far less likely to provoke reactions.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    I dunno, Dave. The shoe bomber and underwear bomber both radically transformed our airport security regime, despite their ineffectiveness. Ditto the guy with the printer cartridges and bogus liquid explosives. We seem to react stupidly no matter what.

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  3. An Interested Party says:

    “The shoe bomber and underwear bomber both radically transformed our airport security regime, despite their ineffectiveness. Ditto the guy with the printer cartridges and bogus liquid explosives. We seem to react stupidly no matter what.”

    Indeed…terrorism has seemingly created more havoc and trouble because of our reactions to it rather than the original acts (or attempts) of terrorism themselves…

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  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I dunno, Dave. The shoe bomber and underwear bomber both radically transformed our airport security regime, despite their ineffectiveness.

    In reaction to an effective act of terrorism that killed upwards of 3,000 people we invaded two countries. overturned their governments, and, let’s be honest, killed thousands of people. In reaction to ineffective acts of terrorism we’ve tightened our own security, spent billions on essentially useless precautions, and kept ourselves in a perpetual state of agitation.

    Sounds to me like as though, if your plan is to wear us down, it costs terrorists a lot less to do so using ineffective acts of terrorism than using effective ones.

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  5. steve says:

    All of the acts of terror have been effective because we have reacted with excessive fear and overreaction. If we continue to cooperate by being terrorized, we should expect more attacks. The dollar return for each successful or unsuccessful act of terror has been incredible for AQ et al. Lives lost return has been pretty good also.

    Steve

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  6. Dwight says:

    To put this in perspective for Sweden though, in the last 10 years there have been 14 political murders tied to Nazi/white supremacists, and 2 by a sniper that targeted immigrants. In that same time frame we now have had 2 injuries and one suicide by a muslim terrorist.

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  7. An Interested Party says:

    And notice how much international attention has been paid to this terrorist attack as opposed to all those previous political murders involving Nazi/white supremacists…

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