Swedish government responds to London attacks

As London's transport system was rocked by a series of explosions on Thursday, Swedish civil servants met in a crisis meeting at government offices in Stockholm to discuss the Swedish reaction to the suspected terrorist attacks.

33 people are confirmed dead and hundreds are injured following four separate blasts which rocked three underground lines and a bus in London, which is home to over 40,000 Swedes. The British capital is also a popular destination for Swedish tourists.

Sweden’s prime minister, Göran Persson, has returned to Stockholm from his holiday.

“I immediately made the connection with September 11. I don’t know if it is right or not, but that was my gut reaction,” Persson told AFP on the sidelines of a press conference in Stockholm.

“Hopefully the British authorities will be able as soon as possible to catch these criminals and do it in a way that demonstrates our open democratic society’s strength and determination,” he said.

Foreign minister Laila Freivalds also broke off her holiday and returned to work as fears increased that Swedes were among the injured.

“We calculate that there are around 40,000 Swedes in the area. Naturally there is a large risk that some of them have been affected,” said the foreign ministry’s Kent Öberg to Expressen.

The foreign ministry and the Swedish Embassy in London are working to track down Swedes who might have been caught up in the events.

Daniel Svanell, press officer at the embassy, said that staff were following media reports about which hospitals the injured were being taken to, and then trying to ascertain whether Swedes were among those hurt.

The embassy is asking Swedes in London to ring home to let relatives know that they are unharmed. It has also recommended that Swedes “wait and see” before travelling to London.

Thursday’s emergency meeting, chaired by state secretary Lars Danielsson, included senior representatives from the defence and foreign ministries.

While a letter published on a web site from a group claiming to have links to al-Qaida appeared to suggest a threat against Denmark, Sweden’s security police, Säpo, said that there was no reason to believe that there was an increased risk of an attack in Sweden.

“The pictures from London can be disturbing for many people. To (create a feeling) of safety and calm, I think it is best to increase the presence of police on the streets” of Stockholm, Jakob Larsson of Säpo told the TT news agency.

Nevertheless, security around the British embassy has been stepped up and more police than usual will be on Stockholm’s streets.

Göran Persson said that “we should not underestimate the danger” and acknowledged that the security level in Sweden would be increased slightly.

The Local/AFP