Europe

Stockholm truck attack: Who is Rakhmat Akilov?

Person of interest in Stockholm attack: a young, hooded man Image copyright Swedish police
Image caption Police released this picture of Akilov during the hunt for the attacker

The man convicted of ploughing a truck into a department store in central Stockholm, killing five people, had been denied residency in Sweden and had expressed sympathy for so-called Islamic State (IS).

Rakhmat Akilov, an Uzbek asylum seeker, ran from the scene still covered in blood and glass on 7 April 2017, and was arrested hours later in a northern suburb of Stockholm.

He was jailed for life for terrorist crimes in June 2018.

After his arrest, a picture of Akilov started to emerge: someone who had failed in his bid to get residency, lost his job and was hiding from police who wanted to deport him.

Bumping into a former colleague, he revealed he was spending his days "sleeping and smoking".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Five people were killed when the lorry drove into the department store

He had left his wife and four children behind in Uzbekistan, and earned money to send home to them.

Akilov had applied for residency in 2014 but had been informed in December 2016 that "he had four weeks to leave the country", police official Jonas Hysing said. He did not leave and, in February, was officially put on a wanted list.

A few months earlier he had reportedly lost his job after falling asleep at work.

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He had been working in construction and was employed by Pierre Svensson for several weeks in 2016, helping on an asbestos removal project.

Akilov was, he said, "a reserved person".

"He didn't stick out. He did his job. You can't say he was very sociable, we just told him what to do and he did it. He didn't speak much Swedish," he told news agency AFP.

Akilov was also described as not being particularly religious. One has suggested he "partied and drank", which goes against strict Islamic doctrine.

"He never talked about politics or religion," one friend told Swedish daily Aftonbladet. "He didn't pray five times a day from what I know."

A co-worker agreed, telling news agency Reuters: "He was like any normal guy."

Online, it seems, it was a different story.

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Media captionWhat we know about the Stockholm truck attack

His Facebook page - which has since been taken down - was linked to a number of extremists through friends and featured at least two propaganda videos linked to IS, one reportedly showing the aftermath of the Boston bombing.

He also liked a page called "Friends of Libya and Syria", which says it aims to expose "terrorism of the imperialistic financial capitals" of the US, British and Arab "dictatorships".

However, he was also a fan of pages dedicated to Playboy magazine and Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova.

Despite all this, Akilov was not considered a threat by Swedish security services, who dismissed him as a "marginal character", apparently on the fringes of larger extremist movements.

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