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Swedish prime minister calls deadly truck crash a ‘terror attack’

A driver crashed a hijacked beer truck into an upscale department store in central Stockholm on Friday, killing at least two people, according to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who called the crash a terror attack.

People in the downtown area fled in panic, and the country’s intelligence agency said a large number of people were injured. Broadcaster SVT said at least five people were killed in the attack while Swedish radio reported three dead, but police could not immediately confirm those reports.

“Sweden has been attacked,” Lofven said in a nationally televised news conference. “This indicates that it is an act of terror.”

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Live television images showed smoke coming out of the upscale Ahlens department store on Drottninggatan Street after the truck smashed into the building. The department store is part of a Sweden-wide chain. The building includes several stores at street level.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

“We stood inside a shoe store and heard something ... and then people started to scream,” witness Jan Granroth told the Aftonbladet daily. “I looked out of the store and saw a big truck.”

Police said there were no indications of shooting in the area, as Swedish broadcaster SVT reported earlier. Police in a later news conference said no one has been arrested in connection with the case, contradicting earlier Swedish media reports.

Swedish beer maker Spendrups said one of its trucks had been hijacked earlier Friday.

“It is one of our delivery trucks. In connection with a delivery to a restaurant called Caliente, someone jumped into the truck and drove it away, while the driver was unloading his delivery,” Spendrups spokesman Marten Luth told the Swedish news agency TT.

He said the original beer truck driver was not injured.

Lofven, who was visiting a school in central Sweden where three students died in a bus crash Sunday, said he and the Swedish government were being updated constantly on developments.

Condolences poured in from top European Union officials and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf said the royal family sends its condolences to the families of the victims and injured.

In neighboring Finland, President Sauli Niinisto said he was shocked by the “maniac act of terror” in Stockholm.

“Every terror attack is to be equally condemned. But it touches us deeply when such an attack takes place in our Nordic neighborhood,” Niinisto said.

Helsinki police said they were tightening security measures in the center of the Finnish capital.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said in a tweet Friday that “my heart is in Stockholm this afternoon. My thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends of today’s terrible attack.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “one of Europe’s most vibrant and colorful cities appears to have been struck by those wishing it — and our very way of life — harm.”

Juncker said “an attack on any of our (EU) member states is an attack on us all” and that Sweden can count on EU help.

Friday’s incident is near the site of a December 2010 attack in which Taimour Abdulwahab, a Swedish citizen who lived in Britain, detonated a suicide bomb, killing himself and injuring two others.

Abdulwahab rigged a car with explosives in the hope that the blast would drive people to Drottninggatan — the street hit Friday — where he would set off devices strapped to his chest and back. The car bomb never went off, and Abdulwahab died when one of his devices exploded among panicked Christmas shoppers.

Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s attack, vehicles have been common weapons in recent extremist attacks. Last month, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, a man drove into a crowd on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing three people and injuring many others before stabbing a policeman to death. A fourth person, a woman thrown into the Thames by the force of the car impact, died Thursday.

Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for a truck attack that killed 86 people in Nice, France, in July and another that killed 12 people at a Christmas market in Berlin.

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UPDATES:

9:05 a.m.: This article has been updated with police reports on the investigation and reaction from world leaders.

7:39 a.m.: This article was updated with the latest death toll.

7:10 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

This article was originally published at 6:45 a.m.


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