‘I witnessed the Stockholm attack three years after terrorists killed my brother – we mustn’t give in to fear’

Three years ago, terrorists in Kabul turned Faisal Khan's world upside down. On Friday, he was an eyewitness to the deadly truck attack in Stockholm.

'I witnessed the Stockholm attack three years after terrorists killed my brother – we mustn’t give in to fear'
People lay flowers near the crime scene in central Stockholm. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

On March 20th 2014, as my family and I were preparing to celebrate the Persian New Year, my Twitter feed showed breaking news of an ongoing terrorist attack in Kabul, my hometown.

Desperate to find out if our loved ones were in safety, my wife and I ran around looking for our telephones. We called home and were given assurances that everyone was safe and sound. We watched the news unfold, revealing how tragedy had struck Kabul on the eve of the New Year once again. 

Next day a news flash announced the death of a prominent Afghan journalist in the attack. A shiver ran down my spine. My brother was a prominent Afghan journalist. I ran for my phone. Unusually, my brother’s Twitter account was cold. No breaking news from him on last night’s incident. I unwillingly realized that my news-breaker brother had become the breaking news. 

Sardar Ahmad, a prominent Afghan journalist, together with his wife Homira, his son Omar, and his daughter Nilofar, had fallen victim to a barbaric act of terrorism. 

Abuzar, only two years old, was fighting for his life in a hospital after he was shot several times at point blank range.

My life changed that fateful day. Yesterday, April 7th, was my late sister in-law Homira’s birthday. I marked the day by walking along Stockholm’s Drottninggatan to Hötorget. I bought a dozen roses to take to a cemetery and relive her memory.

But as I walked on Drottninggatan I heard a loud noise followed by men and women screaming. Tragedy had struck again, in a different form and in a different place, but with the exact same consequences: death and fear.

I was on my way to buy flowers to place on graves in memory of my slain sister-in-law. Hundreds of other people were walking the pedestrian street with their own plans for the afternoon. Suddenly one maniac decided to disrupt our plans and our lives by doing what he felt was justified.

I bear the pain of loss of life deeply. However, what makes me even more worried is the social impact of such incidents.  

The police have a suspect, a man of foreign origin and likely of Muslim heritage like myself. In other words, someone with whom I share many similarities; but I couldn't differ more from him in terms of how we value human life. An easy way to react is to hate him and everyone who looks like him.

But that's not how I reacted when my family members were killed, and nor should it be how you react. 

The death of my brother made me think. I thought more and more deeply about the reasons behind terrorism, which took him and his family away from us. I reasoned with myself to find if there could really be a purpose their death served. 

And there wasn't. It did not serve any purpose. It is not justifiable under any circumstances. In the same way yesterday's carnage is entirely unjustifiable. It's systematic madness. And this systematic madness is used to send us a message, a message of fear and hate.

I reacted to my brother’s death by not giving in to the culture of fear and hate peddled by extremists. I wept not only for the loss of my brother and his family but I also wept for the perpetrators, because their death was also a senseless loss of life.

READ ALSO: 'The wall came towards us like an avalanche'

Faisal Khan is an entrepreneur with a background in media. He moved to Sweden in 2004 and has lived here ever since. Follow him on Twitter



Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”.