TPM World News

LONDON (AP) — British police have arrested three women as part of a continuing counterterrorism investigation that included a raid last week.

Police said that three women were arrested Monday morning on suspicion of planning attacks. Two are 18 and one is 19. They are being questioned at a police station outside London.

Police say the arrests are part of an ongoing intelligence-led operation related to a series of arrests that began Thursday when police stormed a house in northwest London.

One woman who was shot during that raid was arrested after she was discharged from a hospital.

So far, a total of 10 people have been arrested as part of the investigation. None have yet been charged or identified.

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — Swedish police say they are investigating a fire that caused major damage to a mosque near Stockholm as possible arson.

Stockholm police spokesman Lars Bystrom says “it appears to have been lit from the outside.” He couldn’t give further details pending an investigation.

No one was injured in the blaze, which started late Sunday. Only a handful of people were in the building but earlier up to 500 people had attended celebrations at the mosque.

Mosque spokesman Akil Zahiri told the national news agency TT on Monday that he was “very troubled” as the mosque wasn’t only his workplace but also “felt like another home.”

As migrants have flooded into Sweden, there have been increasing xenophobic attacks, including 112 fires last year at refugee reception centers, most of them arson.

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ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis has repeated that some migrant holding centers in Europe amount to “concentration camps,” even after Jewish groups urged him to stop using the loaded term.

A German reporter asked Francis if he had made a linguistic slip when he first made the remarks last week, adding that they had been met with shock in Germany. Speaking Saturday en route home from Egypt, Francis appeared to not appreciate the controversy, saying that there are some refugee holding centers where migrants are penned in and prevented from leaving.

He said: “There are refugee camps that are true concentration camps.”

The American Jewish Committee sharply criticized the remarks and urged Francis to use a different choice of words.

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ISTANBUL (AP) — In a move that social media users called censorship, a Turkish court on Saturday blocked access to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, enforcing an earlier restriction by Turkey’s telecommunications watchdog.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) said an Ankara court ordered Saturday that a “protection measure” related to suspected internet crimes be applied to Wikipedia. Such measures are used to block access to pages or entire websites to protect “national security and public order.”

In response, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tweeted his support for those who labeled the decision censorship: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”

Turkey Blocks, an internet censorship monitor, said users in Turkey have been unable to access all language editions of Wikipedia since 8 a.m. Saturday.

“The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country,” the monitor said.

The site had initially been blocked by BTK under a provisional administration measure.

The exact reason for the ban remains unclear. But Turkey’s official news agency, quoting the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, said Saturday the site was blocked for “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

The state-run Anadolu Agency said officials had warned Wikipedia to remove content likening Turkey to terror groups but the site “persistently” did not.

Turkey had demanded that Wikipedia open an office in the country, act in line with international law and abide by court decisions and not be part of “blackout operation against Turkey,” according to the agency.

Anadolu said if these demands are met and the content removed, the site would be reopened.

Opposition lawmakers also criticized the court order. Republican People’s Party parliamentarians Eren Erdem tweeted the ban puts “Turkey in line with North Korea” while Baris Yarkadas called it “censorship and a violation of the right to access information.”

Turkey’s status is listed as “not free” on the 2016 Freedom on the Net index by independent rights watchdog Freedom House. It says over 111,000 websites were blocked as of May last year.

Wikipedia, a collaborative online reference work, says it is ranked among the 10 most popular websites.

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Protesters lit buses on fire, blocked roads and clashed with police on Friday during a general strike that brought transportation to a halt in many cities across Latin America’s largest nation.

The strike was to protest major changes to labor law and the pension system being considered by Congress, but it was also a raw display of anger by many Brazilians fed up with corruption and worried about the future amid a deep recession and rising unemployment.

In Rio de Janeiro, after hours of clashes with police in front of the legislative building, several buses were torched. In Sao Paulo, thousands marched toward the home of President Michel Temer, throwing rocks at police who shot stun grenades when protesters tried to go beyond barriers set up.

Millions stayed home, either in support of the strike or simply because they were unable to get to work. The tens of thousands who took to the street raised questions about whether Temer will be able to push his proposals through Congress, where they had previously looked likely to pass.

Temer’s administration argues that more flexible labor rules will revive a moribund economy and warns the pension system will go bankrupt without changes. Unions and other groups called for the strike, saying the changes before Congress will make workers too vulnerable and strip away too many benefits.

In a statement Friday night, Temer characterized the protesters as “small groups” that blocked the roads and streets. He said his administration was working to help Brazilians workers overcome the country’s economic malaise.

Earlier in the day, most commuter trains and metro lines were stopped in Sao Paulo during the height of morning commute, and all buses stayed off the roads. Buses ran partial service during the morning in Rio but later began returning to normal. The metro was closed for the day in the capital of Brasilia.

Some protesters also set up barricades and started fires in the streets, including on roads heading to the main airports in Sao Paulo. In Rio, protesters created confusion by running through Santos Dumont Airport, and others blocked a major road.

Some plane mechanics joined the strike, according to the National Aeronautic Union, but the impact was minimal, with only a handful of flights canceled or delayed at the two cities’ airports.

“We are demanding our rights, as workers, because the president of the country proposed a law for people to work more and live less, so you will only receive your pension when you die,” said Edgar Fernandes, a dock worker who was protesting in Rio.

The CUT union said around 35 million Brazilians didn’t show up for work on Friday, more than one-third of the working population. But government officials downplayed the strike, insisting that many Brazilians were still at work.

“We don’t have a strike, we have widespread riots,” Justice Minister Osmar Serraglio said on Joven Pam radio.

Brazil’s economy is in a deep recession, and many Brazilians are frustrated with Temer’s government. Temer, whose approval ratings are hovering around 10 percent, has argued the proposed changes will benefit Brazilians in the long run. But with so many out of work, many feel they can ill afford any cuts to their benefits.

Meanwhile, the country is mired in a colossal scandal involving billions of dollars in kickbacks to politicians and other public officials. Over the last three years, dozens of top politicians and businessmen have been jailed in the so-called Car Wash investigation that has produced near daily revelations of wrongdoing.

Scores of sitting politicians, including Temer himself and several of his ministers, have been implicated. Temer denies wrongdoing.

In one the largest demonstrations Friday, thousands of protesters gathered in front Rio de Janeiro’s state assembly in the afternoon and were fighting pitched battles with police who tried to remove them. Police fired tear gas while protesters threw stones and lit small fires in the middle of streets.

In Sao Paulo, police told downtown shopkeepers to close early, apparently out of concern that protesters might head there. Throughout the day, 21 people were arrested in Sao Paulo, according to military police.

Underscoring the economic malaise, the IBGE statistics agency announced on Friday that unemployment had jumped to 13.7 percent in the first quarter of the year, up from 12 percent.

The anger over the proposed changes to benefits shows that Temer’s government has failed to convince the people that the moves are necessary, said Oliver Stuenkel, who teaches international relations at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas university in Sao Paulo. And yet, the proposed laws have been moving fairly easily through Congress, and had been expected to eventually pass.

“This is a peculiar government that has low approval and still gets work done in Congress,” he said. “But lawmakers also think of their re-elections next year. After today, there could be a bigger risk for Temer in getting any meaningful bills passed.”

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Savarese reported from Sao Paulo.

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AP Television journalist Yesica Fisch in Rio de Janeiro and AP writer Sarah DiLorenzo in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

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BERLIN (AP) — Flights to and from Berlin’s Tegel airport were briefly suspended Saturday after police cleared a terminal to investigate a suspicious suitcase.

The airport operator said shortly after midday that flights to Tegel were being diverted as officers examined a piece of unclaimed baggage at Terminal B.

About 20 minutes later the operator and federal police announced flights would resume.

German news agency dpa cited a police spokesman saying the suitcase had proved to be “harmless.”

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A North Korean mid-range ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch Saturday, South Korea and the United States said, the third test-fire flop just this month but a clear message of defiance as a U.S. supercarrier conducts drills in nearby waters.

North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations because they’re seen as part of the North’s push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the U.S. mainland. The latest test came as U.S. officials pivoted from a hard line to diplomacy at the U.N. in an effort to address what may be Washington’s most pressing foreign policy challenge.

President Donald Trump said on Twitter, “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” He did not answer reporters’ questions about the missile launch upon returning to the White House from a day trip to Atlanta.

North Korea didn’t immediately comment on the launch, though its state media on Saturday reiterated the country’s goal of being able to strike the continental U.S.

The timing of the North’s test was striking: Only hours earlier the U.N. Security Council held a ministerial meeting on Pyongyang’s escalating weapons program. North Korean officials boycotted the meeting, which was chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 71 kilometers (44 miles) before it apparently failed.

It didn’t immediately provide an estimate on how far the missile flew, but a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said it was likely a medium-range KN-17 ballistic missile. It broke up a few minutes after the launch.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking after a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council, said the missile is believed to have traveled about 50 kilometers (30 miles) and fallen on an inland part of North Korea.

Analysts say the KN-17 is a new Scud-type missile developed by North Korea. The North fired the same type of missile April 16, just a day after a massive military parade where it showed off its expanding missile arsenal, but U.S. officials called that launch a failure.

Some analysts say a missile the North test fired April 5, which U.S. officials identified as a Scud variant, also might have been a KN-17. U.S. officials said that missile spun out of control and crashed into the sea.

Moon Seong Mook, a South Korean analyst and former military official, says that the North would gain valuable knowledge even from failed launches as it continues to improve its technologies for missiles. The South Korean and Japanese assessments about Saturday’s launch indicate that the North fired the missile from a higher-than-normal angle to prevent it from flying too far, he said.

“They could be testing a variety of things, such as the thrust of the rocket engine or the separation of stages,” Moon said. “A failure is a failure, but that doesn’t mean the launch was meaningless.”

The two earlier launches were conducted from an eastern coastal area, but Saturday’s missile was fired in the west, from an area near Pukchang, just north of the capital, Pyongyang.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry denounced the launch as an “obvious” violation of United Nations resolutions and the latest display of North Korea’s “belligerence and recklessness.”

“We sternly warn that the North Korean government will continue to face a variety of strong punitive measures issued by the U.N. Security Council and others if it continues to reject denuclearization and play with fire in front of the world,” the ministry said.

The North routinely test-fires a variety of ballistic missiles, despite U.N. prohibitions, as part of its weapons development. While shorter-range missiles are somewhat routine, there is strong outside worry about each longer-range North Korean ballistic test.

Saturday’s launch comes at a point of particularly high tension. Trump has sent a nuclear-powered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier to Korean waters, and North Korea this week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast. The U.S. and South Korea also started installing a missile defense system that is supposed to be partially operational within days, while their two navies began joint military drills later Saturday.

The South Korean navy said the drills are aimed at “deterring North Korea’s provocations and displaying the firm alliance between the United States and South Korea.”

On Friday, the United States and China offered starkly different strategies for addressing North Korea’s escalating nuclear threat as Tillerson demanded full enforcement of economic sanctions on Pyongyang and urged new penalties. Stepping back from suggestions of U.S. military action, he even offered aid to North Korea if it ends its nuclear weapons program.

The range of Tillerson’s suggestions, which over a span of 24 hours also included restarting negotiations, reflected America’s failure to halt North Korea’s nuclear advances despite decades of U.S.-led sanctions, military threats and stop-and-go rounds of diplomatic engagement. As the North approaches the capability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, the Trump administration feels it is running out of time.

Chairing a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday, Tillerson declared that “failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences.”

His ideas included a ban on North Korean coal imports and preventing its overseas guest laborers, a critical source of government revenue, from sending money home. And he warned of unilateral U.S. moves against international firms conducting banned business with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, which could ensnare banks in China, the North’s primary trade partner.

Yet illustrating the international gulf over how best to tackle North Korea, several foreign ministers on the 15-member council expressed fears of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, which was divided between the American-backed South and communist North even before the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended with no formal peace treaty. And while danger always has lurked, tensions have escalated dramatically as the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has expanded a nuclear arsenal his government says is needed to avert a U.S. invasion.

No voice at Friday’s session was more important than that of China, a conduit for 90 percent of North Korea’s commerce and a country Trump is pinning hopes on for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis. Trump, who recently hosted President Xi Jinping for a Florida summit, has sometimes praised the Chinese leader for a newfound cooperation to crack down on North Korea and sometimes threatened a go-it-alone U.S. approach if Xi fails to deliver.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China would adhere to past U.N. resolutions and wants a denuclearized peninsula. But he spelled out no further punitive steps his government might consider, despite Tillerson’s assertions in an interview hours ahead of the council meeting that Beijing would impose sanctions of its own if North Korea conducts another nuclear test.

Wang put forward a familiar Chinese idea to ease tensions: North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities if the U.S. and South Korea stop military exercises in the region. Washington and Seoul reject the idea.

Tillerson said the U.S. does not seek regime change in North Korea, and he signaled American openness to holding direct negotiations with Pyongyang. The U.S. also could resume aid to North Korea once it “begins to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missile technology programs,” he said. Since 1995, he added, Washington has provided more than $1.3 billion to the impoverished country.

But the prospects for any more U.S. money going there appeared bleak. Even negotiations don’t seem likely.

Tillerson said the North must take “concrete steps” to reduce its weapons threat before talks could occur. Six-nation nuclear negotiations with North Korea stalled in 2009. The Obama administration sought to resurrect them in 2012, but a deal to provide food aid in exchange for a nuclear freeze soon collapsed.

“In a nutshell, (North Korea) has already declared not to attend any type of talks which would discuss its nuclear abandonment, nuclear disbandment,” Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador, told The Associated Press. His government declined to attend Friday’s council meeting.

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AP writers Matthew Pennington and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Edith Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this story.

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PARIS (AP) — France’s troubled wartime past took center stage Friday in the country’s highly charged presidential race, as Marine Le Pen’s far-right party suffered a new blow over alleged Holocaust denial and her centrist rival visited the site of France’s worst Nazi massacre.

Le Pen’s years-long attempts to detoxify her party’s image — efforts that have brought her one step away from the presidency — faced a new setback when the temporary leader of her National Front party quit amid an uproar over past remarks allegedly questioning the Nazi gas chambers.

Le Pen moved to clear the name of long-time collaborator Jean-Francois Jalkh, as well as her own. She said she “abhors” the claims of revisionists who dispute that the Nazis exterminated Jews and noted that Jalkh is suing the Le Monde newspaper for its characterization of his past comments.

The party has no Holocaust deniers among its leaders, Le Pen said.

“There is no one in the direction of the National Front who defends these theses,” she said in an interview on BFM-TV.

Seven decades after the end of World War II, emotions around France’s history of collaborating with the Nazis remain raw in the country. France has never undergone a national atonement; instead, many people still view the actions of the collaborationist Vichy regime as a historical anomaly instead of atrocities committed by the French state.

Seeking the moral high ground, centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel sought to bring the horrors of the Holocaust home to voters with a visit Friday to Oradour-sur-Glane, site of the largest massacre in Nazi-occupied France. The town is today a phantom village, with burned-out cars and abandoned buildings left as testimony to its history.

On June 10, 1944, four days after the Allied D-Day landings in Normandy, an SS armored division herded villagers into barns and a church, blocked the doors, and set Oradour-sur-Glane ablaze. A total of 642 men, women and children died.

Only six people survived.

Macron wants to send a message to voters that Le Pen isn’t a candidate like any other, but the heir of a party stained by anti-Semitism, racism and an outdated worldview.

In comments to local newspapers published Friday, he said, “we don’t want to forget that from here, from Oradour, comes our Republican pride, the National Council of the Resistance that has built our (fundamental) balances, our strength and the European project. That is, everything Marine Le Pen wants to destroy.”

Le Pen prompted her own outcry earlier this month by denying that the French state was responsible for rounding up French Jews during World War II, in a reference to the Vel d’Hiv, the Paris stadium where thousands of Jews were transferred before being sent to Nazi death camps.

Jalkh, the just-appointed interim leader of the National Front resigned Friday over the gas chamber comments reported in a 2000 interview.

Party Vice President Louis Aliot said on BFM television that Jalkh was stepping down to avoid further damage to the National Front, but that he is contesting allegations of Holocaust denial, a crime in France.

Jalkh is also among seven people called to trial in an alleged illegal financing scheme for the party — one of the other challenges facing Le Pen’s campaign.

Aliot said Jalkh will be replaced as party leader by Steeve Briois, mayor of Le Pen’s electoral fiefdom of Henin-Beaumont in depressed northern France.

Soccer great Zinedine Zidane, meanwhile, joined the list of prominent figures urging voters to keep Le Pen out of the presidency.

Le Pen was not letting setbacks deter her. She is painting herself as David against rival Emmanuel Macron’s Goliath as she tries to overcome a poll gap and broaden her support base.

The two candidates offer starkly different visions of France’s future — Macron’s embrace of a globalized, diverse nation within an open-bordered Europe vs. Le Pen’s protectionist, tightly policed France independent of the EU.

Le Pen reached out Friday from her far-right base across to the far left, urging voters who chose communist-linked Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first-round vote to support her in the runoff.

Le Pen and Melenchon won a combined 40 percent of the vote in the first round after populist campaigns that tapped into widespread frustration with mainstream politics.

While they hold opposing views on immigration and social issues, Melenchon and Le Pen are both skeptical of the European Union, hostile to free-trade deals and promised to help workers hurt by globalization.

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Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Neat certainties are rare in the North Korean nuclear crisis, which for decades has simmered and occasionally boiled over, without resolution.

So it was jarring to see the absolute confidence with which America’s top Pacific commander described the ability of a contentious U.S. missile defense system, scheduled to be up and running in days in South Korea, to shoot down North Korean missiles.

“If it flies, it will die,” Adm. Harry Harris Jr. told U.S. lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday.

Like nearly everything associated with the world’s last Cold War standoff, the truth is muddier.

To test the admiral’s assertion, The Associated Press asked a handful of specialists to weigh in on one of the biggest points of friction in Northeast Asia.

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THAAD HAS LIMITS, UNKNOWNS

Harris does have some data to back up his bold statement.

After an early redesign, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, was reportedly successfully tested 12 times, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

A controlled test, however, is a much different matter than an actual war, where large numbers of missiles will be fired with little or no warning.

“Things that work well at home on the test range don’t always go as smoothly when deployed,” McDowell said.

A salvo of multiple North Korean short-range missiles, for instance, could overwhelm THAAD, said David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program.

THAAD will also be deployed about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Seoul, whose greater metropolitan area, about an hour from the heavily armed border, is home to 25 million. “It cannot engage missiles fired at Seoul, so it offers no additional protection of the city,” Wright said.

Some scientists are even blunter.

Harris’ comments about THAAD’s capabilities “are technically incorrect,” said Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The THAAD interceptor is very easily defeated by either causing a missile to tumble end over end, or by intentionally fragmenting a rocket into pieces.”

THAAD’s capabilities as a defense system “can be expected to be very low, probably zero or close to that,” Postol said.

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THE POLITICAL ANGLE

Viewed one way, Harris’ declaration of confidence makes perfect sense.

A senior military official briefing lawmakers beholden to American taxpayers must show complete confidence in the very expensive piece of hardware that’s about to be deployed in a skittish U.S. ally living in direct range of North Korean missiles.

“Just imagine an Air Force general saying that his new jetfighters, designed for air superiority, will not stand a chance against the enemy fighters,” said Markus Schiller, a missile specialist in Germany. “The same is true for a missile defense system — once deployed, the commanding officer has to say it will work.”

The U.S. admiral may also have been looking to soothe South Korea.

THAAD is a big issue ahead of the May 9 presidential election, with the leading candidate, liberal Moon Jae-in, vowing to reconsider the deployment if he wins.

Some South Koreans wonder why the United States and the caretaker government that took over for recently removed President Park Geun-hye rushed key parts of THAAD into place before dawn this week, prompting violent clashes between local villagers and police.

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THE CHINA ANGLE

Another subtext to the admiral’s comments on THAAD is China.

Beijing says THAAD’s powerful radar can be reconfigured to peer deep into its territory and monitor its flights and missile launches.

Seoul already sees moves by Beijing to retaliate, including limits on Chinese tour group visits to South Korea, which is increasingly dependent on Chinese tourism and demand for its industrial products.

Some experts are sympathetic with China’s argument.

Postol said THAAD’s radar can track Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles flying below the curved earth horizon of U.S. missile defense radars in Alaska. It could then send and receive critical missile defense information to U.S. monitors.

“This makes it possible for the THAAD radar to quickly acquire ICBMs launched from China well before the ICBMs rise over the horizon where they could be then seen by U.S. national missile defense radars,” Postol said.

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Klug, AP bureau chief in Seoul, has reported on the Koreas since 2005. Follow on Twitter: www.twittter.com/@apklug

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — A woman in her 60s who was injured in the April 7 truck attack in Stockholm has died, Swedish authorities said Friday, raising the death toll to five.

The Stockholm police said in a statement the woman, who has not been publicly identified, had been hospitalized in southern Sweden.

A 39-year-old Uzbek man, Rakhmat Akilov, has pleaded guilty to a terrorist crime for ramming the truck into a crowd on a main pedestrian shopping street in the Swedish capital. Police have not disclosed a motive for the attack and no extremist group has claimed responsibility for it.

Akilov’s Swedish residency application was rejected last year but police said there was nothing to indicate he might plan an attack. After the rejection, Akilov had been been ordered to leave Sweden in December. Instead, he allegedly went underground, eluding authorities’ attempts to track him down.

Akilov was caught in a northern suburb of Stockholm, hours after he drove the stolen beer truck into the crowd of afternoon shoppers outside the upmarket Ahlens store.

Other victims of attack were an 11-year-old Swedish girl, a 31-year-old Belgian woman, a 69-year-old Swedish woman, and a 41-year-old Briton whom the British government identified as Chris Bevington. Fourteen others were injured in the attack.

The attack had shocked Sweden, known for its welcoming policy toward migrants and refugees.

In 2015, a record 163,000 asylum-seekers arrived in the country — the highest per-capita rate in Europe. The government responded by tightening border controls and curtailing some immigrant rights.

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Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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