The 39-year-old Uzbek man arrested for killing four people by driving a truck into a crowded Stockholm may have been interested in immigrating to either the United States or Canada.
Rakhmat Akilov, who was previously denied permanent residency in Sweden, was reportedly following a Facebook group that offered information on how to emigrate to the U.S. and Canada. He also followed pages calling for the ouster of former Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
Swedish Security Police spokesperson said that Akilov had been involved in an asylum process in Sweden. However, following the rejection of his permanent residence application, Akilov was ordered to leave Sweden in December 2016.
Rather than comply with the order, Akilov allegedly eluded authorities’ attempts to track him down until Friday morning, when he is suspected to have driven a beer truck into a Stockholm department store, killing four and injuring 15. The victims included a British man, a Belgian woman and two Swedes. Akilov was detained by the police at 9 p.m. local time on Friday in a northern Stockholm suburb.
While the suspect is allegedly sympathetic to the Islamic State group, his former co-worker, who chose not to be named, got in touch with Reuters to insist that Akilov was a father with a wife and several children living in Uzbekistan. Akilov’s co-worker went on to say that he never expressed any religious views.
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“He never expressed any radical or religious views. He was like any normal guy,” the former co-worker told Reuters.
Akilov appears to have liked a Facebook group called “Friends of Libya and Syria” dedicated to revealing the “terrorism of the imperialistic financial capitals” of the United States, Britain and Arab “dictatorships”.
His Facebook page also showed that he liked Playboy Magazine and the Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova. It featured one video on the double standards on what constitutes terror and the victimization of Muslims, and another about a man from Mosul, Irai calling others to join ISIS. His Facebook page also listed him as being born in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, the central Asian country’s second-largest city.
The page suddenly became unavailable on Saturday.
Akilov, or someone with that same name, is listed as having a second address in northern Stockholm near Hjulsta, though no attempts at contact by Reuters or other outlets have been successful. He had worked at a construction company for a few months this past year.
It’s also suspected that the Sunday morning attack on a subway station in neighbouring Norway may have been a copy-cat attempt of several recent attacks, including in Stockholm, France, Germany., Britain and Russia. The youth detained was a 17-year old asylum-seeker from Russia.
Sweden has long been known for its open-door policy to refugees, and in 2015 accepted 163 thousand migrants, the highest per-capita rate across Europe.
Following this, the country of 10 million has attempted to be more selective in which entrants it allowed to stay. Swedish police reported Sunday that they’d received over 12,500 referrals from the Swedish Migration Agency of people who had stayed in the country despite their permanent residence applications being denied, like the suspect.
National Coordinator Against Violent Extremism Anna Carlstedt, said Friday’s attack coupled with the suspect’s background as an asylum-seeker posed “difficult questions.”
“Do we somehow need a more repressive policy?” Carlstedt asked. “I think it is very important now not to rush into something, to see how we can safeguard this open society and still be able to protect ourselves.”
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press