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Stockholm terror suspect wanted to 'kill Swedish citizens'

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Stockholm terror suspect wanted to 'kill Swedish citizens'
Rakhmat Akilov in court. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
10:18 CET+01:00
Rakhmat Akilov said he wanted to murder Swedish citizens when he stole a truck and drove it down a busy shopping street in Stockholm last April, killing five and injuring several others.

The Uzbek national addressed Stockholm District Court for the first time on Tuesday morning. He is accused of terrorism for mowing down pedestrians on the Drottninggatan street on April 7th, 2017.

Prosecutor Hans Ihrman started Tuesday's questioning by asking what he had wanted to achieve.

"I wanted Sweden to stop fighting the caliphate. That they would stop sending their soldiers to war zones and stop sending huge sums of money to fight our caliphate," Akilov, 40, told the court.

Akilov pleaded guilty to terrorism on the first day of the trial last week. Whether or not the court finds him guilty will come down to if it is determined his acts were intended to seriously harm Sweden as a country. 

Asked how he had intended to harm Sweden, Akilov said:

"Get hold of a car, drive this car on a central street in Sweden and in that way harm Sweden," he said, adding that his goal had been to "murder Swedish citizens".

'Acted alone'

Akilov claims to have had the blessing of the Isis extremist group, but prosecutors do not believe that he had direct help.

The method of the attack resembled other vehicle assaults in Europe in 2016, including Nice in France and Berlin – but unlike those attacks, the Stockholm killings were never claimed by Isis.

Isis proclaimed an Islamic "caliphate" in parts of Syria and Iraq but has been largely crushed by US-backed coalition forces over recent months.

Speaking calmly in Russian through an interpreter, Akilov expressed no remorse or regret for his actions.

READ ALSO: The Local's coverage of the Stockholm April 7th attack

Akilov told the court that he had been given the green light by Isis members on encrypted chat sites.

He claims he was unable to identify them.

Investigations have failed to conclude whether he received any financial or material assistance.

Chief prosecutor Hans Ihrman said Akilov "sought support" from outside contacts but they did not have a "decisive" role in the attack.

"Akilov had planned and prepared the attack on his own" and "wasn’t dependent on other people", Ihrman told reporters after the hearing.

Akilov told the court he wanted "Sweden to end its participation in the fight against the caliphate, to stop sending its soldiers to war zones".

Sweden, a non-Nato member, has around 70 military personnel based mainly in northern Iraq to provide training as part of the US-led coalition against Isis.

No remorse

In the attack, Akilov stole a beer truck and crashed it into a store.

Three Swedes were killed including an 11-year-old girl, as well as a British man of 41 and a Belgian woman of 31. Ten other people were injured.

Akilov then set off an explosive device but it did not blow up as planned and caused damage only to the truck. He fled the scene, running into the nearby metro station, and was arrested several hours later after being identified from security cameras.

He told police he had wanted "to die as a martyr in an explosion".

Speaking calmly in Russian through an interpreter, Akilov expressed no remorse for his actions. Cooperative at the beginning of questioning, he gradually grew impatient.

"From his testimony so far, it’s quite obvious that we are dealing with a person who is quite convinced of the splendour of his deed," a lawyer for 13 of the plaintiffs, Gustaf Linderholm, told AFP.

Rejected asylum seeker

After arriving in Sweden in 2014, at the start of a wave of migration to Europe, Akilov’s application for residency was rejected in June 2016.

He later went on the run to avoid expulsion and worked odd jobs in construction.

The father of four drank alcohol and used drugs, according to colleagues and acquaintances.

He lived alone in Sweden while his wife and children stayed behind in Uzbekistan.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a life sentence and afterwards his expulsion.

A life sentence in Sweden varies, but is on average 16 years.

The trial is scheduled to end in mid-May, with a verdict due by late June.

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