Swedish party leader Annie Lööf was target of Gotland knife attack

Annie Lööf, leader of the liberal Centre Party, was the intended target of the suspected terror attack at Sweden's Almedalen political festival in July, the prosecutor in the case confirmed on Thursday.

Swedish party leader Annie Lööf was target of Gotland knife attack
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf walks between different events at the Almedalen festival on Gotland. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

“The suspicion is that the perpetrator intended quite simply to do away with her,” Henrik Olin, the prosecutor in the case, told the TT newswire, while telling the Expressen newspaper that Theodor Engström, who carried out the attack, was willing to plead guilty to preparing to murder the politician, who is a hate figure for many on the far-right. 

“His lawyer said at the custody hearing last week that he is ready to accept responsibility for preparation for terror crimes as well, and that relates to this suspected crime.” 

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

Engström, 33, a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement and a long-term psychiatric patient, fatally stabbed the prominent psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren in the main central square in Visby, the main city of Gotland at the start of July. 

The stabbing took place in the middle of the Almedalen political festival, the highlight of Sweden’s political year, when the leaders of all the political parties make speeches, and Sweden’s political, business, and media worlds gather for days of non-stop networking.

Lööf confirmed that she had been the target with a post on Instagram on Thursday. 

“I can confirm that this is the case and that I have been provided with a plaintiff’s lawyer,” she wrote. “Of course, this is disconcerting and that it affects me. But hate must not win.” 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Annie Lööf (@annie_loof)

The forensic psychiatrists who examined Engström after the attack have determined that he was severely mentally disturbed both at the time of the attack and at the time they investigated him. 

Engström is being held suspected of committing a terror offense through murder, and also through preparing a terror offense involving murder. 

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Sweden breaks yearly record for deadly shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for deadly shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.