Swedish Ikea store stops knife sales after attack; police boost security for asylum seekers

A police officer writes on a notepad as he speaks to a driver near the Ikea store where two people died in a knife attack in Vasteras, central Sweden on Monday.
A police officer writes on a notepad as he speaks to a driver near the Ikea store where two people died in a knife attack in Vasteras, central Sweden on Monday. PHOTO: REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (AFP/REUTERS) - The Ikea branch in central Sweden where two shoppers were fatally stabbed - reportedly with knives taken from the shelves - will temporarily stop knife sales, the store manager said Tuesday.

The move came as police in central Sweden have increased security at asylum lodgings, fearing a backlash after two Eritrean asylum-seekers were suspected of the murders.

The Ikea store manager, Mattias Johansson, said told news agency TT: "This is a decision I've taken and it is temporary."

The store would reopen on Wednesday morning.

The Ikea store in Vasteras, about 100 kilometres west of Stockholm, has been closed since Monday when two shoppers were fatally stabbed in the kitchenware section.

While two Eritrean asylum-seekers have been arrested on suspicion of murder, police said Tuesday that the motive for the attack was still unknown.

The victims did not have any connection to their attackers, police said.

Police have remained tight-lipped about what happened in the store, but local media have reported that the suspects may have used knives they picked up from the store's shelves.

One of the suspects, aged 23, has denied any involvement in the attack, while the second, born in 1979, remains in hospital in critical condition. He underwent a second operation on Tuesday for stab wounds and has yet to be questioned by police.

Police have not disclosed how he sustained his injuries.

Both had been staying in the same asylum centre, police said, as they announced the move to boost security at such residences.

"Local police across the region have been tasked with taking these measures, to be there for safety purposes for everyone there - those who work there and those who live there,"Vastmanland police spokesman Per Agren told Sweden's TT news agency, referring to asylum centres in central Vastmanland county.

Sweden has been one of Europe's most generous recipients of asylum seekers. In 2014, it received 81,200 applicants, 13 percent of the total in the European Union.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, who in 2010 took seats in parliament for the first time, have become the third-biggest party, arguing that record numbers of asylum seekers are undermining the country's cherished welfare model.

The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention said this week the number of suspected hate crimes - attacks motivated by the victim's religious, sexual or racial identity - hit a record level last year.

In one of the latest incidents, two homeless migrants were shot at as they slept in a car in the northern Swedish town of Boden last week.

Around 1,000 people demonstrated in central Stockholm last week against an advertising campaign in a metro station by the Sweden Democrats apologising for the "serious problem with forced begging".