Defiant Swedes unite, reject violence after truck attack

People attend a memorial ceremony on April 9, 2017 at Sergels Torg plaza in Stockholm, near the site of the attack. PHOTO: AFP
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A man holds up a sign featuring symbols of different religions during the memorial ceremony in Stockholm. PHOTO: AFP
Tens of thousands gather in central Stockholm for a "Lovefest" vigil against terrorism. PHOTO: REUTERS
People gather around a plywood wall at a makeshift memorial where a truck drove into a department store in Stockholm. PHOTO: AFP
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven looks at flowers near the scene of a truck attack in central Stockholm, Sweden, on April 8, 2017, the day after the hijacked beer truck ploughed into pedestrians on Drottninggatan and crashed into Ahlens department store, killing four people, injuring 15 others. PHOTO: EPA
A Swedish flag, floral tributes and candles on a fence by the department store, Ahlens, beside the scene of a truck attack in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 9, 2017. PHOTO: EPA
People leave floral tributes on the steps at Sergels Torg public square, for victims of a truck attack in central Stockholm, Sweden, April 9, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - A carpet of flowers, candles and stuffed toys on Sunday covered the steps of a Stockholm shopping plaza where up to 50,000 people gathered for a vigil honouring the victims of last week's truck attack.

"We talk, we don't fight," Marianne said just a stone's throw from where the lorry mowed down shoppers before slamming into the facade of a popular department store, killing four people and injuring 15.

The woman, from Stockholm, was one of the thousands who turned out for the vigil, held two days after the assault.

A 39-year-old Uzbek suspected of carrying out the attack had previously been refused residency in Sweden and had "shown sympathies for extremist organisations" such as the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) group, the police said.

Swedish media on Sunday identified the main suspect in the Stockholm truck attack as Rakhmat Akilov, an Uzbek construction worker and father-of-four who went underground to avoid being deported from Sweden. Dailies Expressen and Aftonbladet published Akilov's name and picture on Sunday.

Swedish police have not given his name. He is suspected of driving a stolen beer truck down a busy pedestrian street mowing down shoppers before smashing into the facade of the Ahlens department store.

Although the motive is not yet known, the method resembled previous terror attacks using vehicles in Nice, Berlin and London, all of them claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

"I think it's very important to stay strong together, against anything that endangers our society which is based on democracy," Marianne, who attended the vigil under sunny, spring skies with her elderly mother, added.

A woman handed out roses to two police officers guarding the square.

Children lay flowers on a police car on April 9, 2017 at the point where a truck drove into a department store in Stockholm, Sweden. PHOTO: AFP

Mikael Berggren, a 36-year-old from Stockholm who brought his two children aged one and three to the vigil, said he would continue to live his life normally.

"They're too young to understand what happened," Berggren said as he gazed towards his children. "The attack will not change anything."

Called the "Love Manifestation", the vigil was created as an event on Facebook and attended by politicians, activists and performers.

Flags were, meanwhile, lowered to half mast in the normally vibrant city.

'We will win'

Karin Wanngard, Stockholm's mayor who spoke at the event, described the city as "open, loving and tolerant".

"Horror cannot prevail, horror may never win, we will win instead...(with) openness and kindness!" the Social Democrat said.

A sign placed among floral tributes reads "the people mourn your lost souls" at a makeshift memorial outside a department store in Stockholm on April 8, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Daniel Holl, a 31-year-old German researcher living in Sweden, said he joined the rally to make a stand for unity among nations hit by attacks in recent years.

"Whether it's Berlin, Brussels, Paris or Stockholm you feel the same, it has nothing to do with nationality," he told AFP.

Gurgi Singh, 31, who moved to Stockholm from India a couple of months ago to learn Swedish, said he was not worried the attack would divide or polarise Sweden.

"Sweden or Stockholm is very supportive and people are always welcoming and helpful," he said.

"If it's going do anything its going to make it more stronger than divided," he said, referring to Friday's attack.

For Charlotte, a Stockholm resident, the attack brought people closer even if they didn't always show it.

"This is the capital of Sweden, a lot of people are busy, running around, and we don't even have time to say 'hi' sometimes because we are on the go," she said.

"This is so nice to see that people really care, even if we don't show it everyday, you do care for the people around you."

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