Sweden: Racism motivates fatal sword attack at a school
Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that detectives say the assailant who murdered a pupil and a teacher at a school in southwestern Sweden on 22 October acted out of racist motivation. Swedish media had speculated that the 21-year-old attacker, who was shot during the police response and subsequently succumbed to his injuries, might be an ultra-right sympathizer.
The school where the attack took place is attended by many pupils from immigrant families and police say all the victims were immigrants. "We are convinced that the assailant acted out of racist motivation," Reuters quoted Police Chief Niclas Hallgren as saying.
"We reached that conclusion on the basis of what we found when searching his apartment," Hallgren said, adding that racist motivation was also demonstrated by how the man chose his victims. Police have identified him as Anton Lundin-Pettersson and say he chose his victims according to ethnic origin.
Police say the perpetrator acted alone and planned his crime in advance. They have concluded that from a "suicide good-bye letter" that was found in his apartment.
The attacker is said to have been fascinated with the novels of Stephen King and with war films. He reportedly posted films about Adolf Hitler and Nazism to his account on the YouTube portal and shared a call from the ultra-right Swedish Democrats for a referendum on immigration last week on his Facebook page.
Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said in response to the news that a record number of immigrants to Sweden this year is sparking racist sentiment among a small segment of Swedish society. The attack occurred on the same day that the Government announced that the 10-million strong country, which is one of the most open to immigrants in Europe, is anticipating as many as 190 000 asylum-seekers this year.
"We cannot, however, blame our asylum policy for the fact that a madman turns up who murders children," the minister said. The crime happened in the industrial town of Trollhättan at a primary school attended by approximately 400 people; the school serves classes ranging from kindergarten through ninth grade.
Trollhättan is located roughly 75 kilometers north of the second-biggest city in Sweden, Göteborg, and has about 50 000 residents, 20 % of whom are of foreign origin. In recent years, asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria have come there and one neighborhood is called "Little Mogadishu" after the Somali capital.
Trollhättan is also grappling with high unemployment after the collapse of the Saab automobile company, which had its headquarters there, according to Reuters. The attacker came to the school, which is located in one of the more impoverished parts of town, wearing a mask of Darth Vader, the character from the "Star Wars" film, a black raincoat, and carrying a sword.
Many pupils believed it was a Hallowe'en joke. One girl asked to take a photograph with him, which he did not protest against.
The attacker is said to have then stabbed a teacher. Police say they did not know of the man prior to his attack.
"He was a loner. He played computer games and lived in his own world," a former classmate of the attacker told the Swedish newspaper Expressen.
The media have noted that this characteristic was also reported about Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 people on 22 July 2011 in the government district of the capital, Oslo, and on the nearby island of Utöya. Andrew Brown, a commentator for the British daily The Guardian, said the Swedish murderer probably did not have a hateful ideology that was as developed as Breivik's.
While Lundin-Pettersson is said to have been known for his admiration of Nazism and his rejection of immigrants and Islam, Brown said he seems to be more like the shooters at schools in the United States of America, a quiet loner who desires fame, as can be seen from the Star Wars mask and the choice of a sword as a murder weapon. He struck two pupils, first reported as age 15 and 17, a 20-year-old teaching assistant, and a 41-year-old math teacher.
Swedish media are praising the deceased teacher as a hero. "When the attacker began swinging his sword at the children, he protected his pupils and stood in front of them. He was killed. He always put the good of others before himself," one of the teacher's relatives said.
The other victim who lost his life was a boy from a family of Somali immigrants who fled to Sweden three years ago. His mother, who has another seven children at home, said the victim was actually just 15 years old even though his passport says he is 17.
The other 15-year-old is recovering from his injuries in hospital. His family recently arrived in Sweden from Syria.
Violent attacks in the schools are extremely unusual in Sweden. During the past 20 years only one other such attack has been recorded that resulted in the death of a schoolchild, BBC News reports.
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