Sweden Identifies Alleged Suicide Bomber
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Authorities have all but confirmed that he is Taymour Abdel Wahab, a 28-year- old Sunni Muslim and Swedish citizen. His family moved to Sweden from Iraq in 1992. For more on the presumed bomber and the reaction in Sweden, I'm joined by Robert Aschberg. He's columnist for the newspaper Aftonbladet. Welcome to the program.
ROBERT ASCHBERG: Thank you.
BLOCK: And what more can you tell us about what authorities have learned or said about the suspected bomber?
ASCHBERG: They're looking for accomplices in Sweden, Britain and the Middle East. Other people have been speculating here that this guy was a loner. Obviously his family says they didn't know anything about it and in this message, the warning message that he sent to the big news bureau and to the police, I think, 10 minutes before the bomb went off, he apologizes, you know, not - having lied to his family.
BLOCK: If I understand the family history here, the suspected bomber moved with his family from Iraq to Sweden when he was 10. He went to university, though, in Britain in 2001?
ASCHBERG: Yes. He went to high school and all the usual education up to that age in Sweden. And his friends there thought that he was a normal guy, drinking beer, playing basket - having fun, not being too religious.
BLOCK: And what are you hearing about when he became radicalized, when he started espousing his extremist views?
ASCHBERG: It seems that he became radicalized in Great Britain during his taking his course in physiotherapy. He went to an Islamic center there in Luton. And Swedish press quotes the founder, Qadir Baksh, when he describes Abdel Wahab as, and I quote, "nice, talkative, but very radical and extreme in his views."
BLOCK: And as far as we know, he was not on the radar of Swedish law enforcement at all prior to this bombing?
ASCHBERG: No, he wasn't. And they confirmed this. There have been other threats in Sweden and they have raised the warning level for terrorist actions. But they say this is not related.
BLOCK: Mr. Aschberg, what can you tell us about the Muslim population within Sweden? How integrated they are within Swedish society and what, if any, anti- immigrant sentiment there has been building up.
ASCHBERG: Many live in certain areas where it's hard to find jobs. And the usual European contradictions are there. And when it comes to race, Islamophobia, that, of course, has been growing. In the latest election, the right wing party gained 26 in parliament.
BLOCK: What would you say the climate is right now, following this bombing - how fearful people are, whether people are fearing that a society that's, as we say, known for being open and tolerant, may become less so?
ASCHBERG: What I know is that the prime minister, in his first speech after this bombing, said that we have to keep the society open. He warned everybody to - for this kind of dangerous sentiments. You could say that there's been a big debate over having Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan. There are about 500 soldiers there today. Five dead, so far. And the latest polls say that 45 percent of the population is for having Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan. Thirty-five percent are against and 20 percent have no opinion.
BLOCK: I've been talking with Robert Aschberg, a columnist for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. Mr. Aschberg, thanks very much.
ASCHBERG: Thank you.
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