Swedish Foreign Minister Stabbed in Store
48 minutes ago
By KARL RITTER, Associated Press Writer
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, one of the country's most popular politicians, was stabbed repeatedly Wednesday while shopping at an exclusive department store in downtown Stockholm.
Police said they did not believe the attack was politically motivated and were searching for a man wearing a camouflage jacket who fled the store. Lindh was undergoing surgery at the Karolinska Hospital and her wounds were serious but not life-threatening, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Lindh, who is No. 3 in the government, often has been touted as a possible successor to Prime Minister Goeran Persson. She did not have bodyguards.
The attack comes just days before Swedes decide whether to adopt the euro, which polls show faces strong opposition in the country. The foreign minister ardently supports the common currency.
Persson said he and other euro supporters would stop campaigning but the prime minister did not say whether there were any plans to delay the referendum.
Lindh, 46, was inside the Nordiska Kompaniet department store blocks away from the parliament building when she was stabbed just before 4 p.m., witnesses told The Associated Press.
Hanna Sundberg, who also was shopping at the store, said she saw a man chase Lindh up an escalator from the basement.
"She fell on the floor and the man was stabbing her in the stomach," Sundberg said. "When he ran away, he threw the knife away."
Sundberg ran to Lindh, who cried out: "God, he has stabbed me in the stomach!" Sundberg said she then saw blood.
Police spokesman Bjoern Pihlblad said Lindh was stabbed in the arms, chest and stomach. He said police were searching for the man, whose identity was not released. The knife was recovered at the store. Authorities later issued a national alert for the suspect, placing border crossings between Finland, Norway and Denmark on alert.
An Associated Press reporter saw Lindh hustled out of the building on a stretcher by three paramedics, with police surrounding her.
The prime minister, visibly shaken, told reporters he was in contact with doctors about Lindh's condition.
"The situation is serious," Persson said.
Persson called Lindh one of the country's most respected politicians.
"The attack on her is an attack on our open society and because of this I am feeling great anger and dismay," he said, adding that security around all government buildings had been tightened.
Lindh, a member of the Social Democrats, has been head of the Foreign Ministry since 1998. She was a member of the Riksdag, or parliament, in 1982-1985. She is married and has two children.
Sweden, a Scandinavian country of 9 million, has a reputation as a relatively safe place and violence against politicians is rare.
But in 1986, Prime Minister Olof Palme was killed while walking home from a movie theater with his wife. That killing has never been solved.
Politicians in Sweden are often seen walking along the street or riding in the subway without police protection.
More recently, political violence touched the Netherlands, where an animal rights activist shot and killed anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002. The gunman was sentenced to 18 years in prison for killing Fortuyn, a candidate for prime minister and outspoken gay academic who shook up Holland by blaming rising crime on Moroccan and Turkish minorities.
Peter Eriksson, leader of Sweden's Green party, called the attack "an attempt to hurt democracy."
"For some people, this may bring back all the terrible memories of years back when Prime Minister Olof Palme was killed," Eriksson said. "This may very well lead to Swedish politicians having to have bodyguards from now on."
The attack on Lindh "shows that public figures are very vulnerable in Scandinavia," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, who was attending a meeting of the World Trade Organization (news - web sites) in Cancun, Mexico.
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, a friend of Lindh's, said there could be no rational motive for the attack.
"This was a senseless and cowardly act of violence," Tuomioja said in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.
Is there any place in the world that is safe? Or is safety an illusion?