UPDATED: Norway’s state police began rearming themselves on Friday afternoon after Stockholm was hit by a terrorist attack that left at least four people dead and 15 injured, nine of them seriously. The attacker drove a stolen truck down a pedestrian street and into the large and busy Åhlens City shopping center in the heart of downtown.
The attack shocked Scandinavians and prompted Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) to immediately re-evaluate the threat level in Norway, which is on the verge of its traditional Easter holiday week. Norwegian leaders denounced the attack and sent their condolences.
“We’re shocked by the terrible attacks in the middle of Stockholm,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg stated Friday from China, where she’s on an official visit. “Our closest neighbours are hit hard, and we are with them in their sorrow now.” Her finance minister, Siv Jensen, also extended sympathy: “My thoughts go to all those affected.”
“Terrible news from Stockholm,” stated Solberg’s predecessor Jens Stoltenberg, now the secretary general of NATO. “My heartfelt sympathies to to all those affected. We stand with the Swedish people in their grief.” Stoltenberg’s successor as leader of the Norwegian Labour Party, Jonas Gahr Støre, referred to the “gruesome scenes” in Stockholm: “We feel with Sweden, which has been subjected to suffering and death in a meaningless act.”
Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande also sent her thoughts and sympathy to “our brothers and sisters in Sweden, Thorbjørn Jagland, the Norwegian head of the Council of Europe, condemned “yet another attack on our values and freedom in a vibrant European capital.”
Taking up arms again
Norwegian police announced shortly after PST announced its evaluation of threat levels that they would take up arms again after a lengthy period of returning to their normal status of being unarmed. The state police directorate announced at around 5pm that police in the country’s largest cities including Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim would immediately rearm.
Police on patrol at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen also started carrying firearms again, just a week after a state commission recommended that all Norwegian police remain unarmed. Additional street patrols were called out as well. In Bergen, the rearming order also applies to Os, Sotra, Askøy and Nordhordland, according to operations Frode Kolltveit of the Vest Police District.
“The police’s situation center is closely following what’s happening in Stockholm and has contact with Swedish police,” stated a press release from the Norwegian police directorate.
Delivery truck hijacked
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven condemned the attack, which occurred after a delivery truck for the Spendrup’s brewery was hijacked and driven down the pedestrian street Drottningsgata. The truck then crashed through a corner entrance to the large Åhlens City department store and caught fire. Witnesses reported hearing shots and seeing a person with a pistol. Smoke billowed out of the store before the fire was extinguished,
Löfven declared that all signs pointed to a terrorist attack on Sweden. There were also reports of shooting in various areas of the Swedish capital, but police could not confirm them. Stockholm quickly shut down its metro system and its central train station was evacuated. All public transportation was eventually shut down, also to the airport at Arlanda north of the city. Police were urging Stockholm residents and workers to remain indoors as helicopters whirred overhead.
Norway’s foreign ministry and its embassy in Stockholm were also following the situation in Sweden closely, and working to determine whether any Norwegians were involved. Police in Sweden reported later Friday evening that a man answering the description of their chief subject had been arrested at Märsta, not far from Arlanda.