When a masked man entered a Swedish school midmorning Thursday carrying a sword and wearing what looked like a Star Wars mask, students thought it was a joke. Some of them even wanted to hold his sword. But soon, the man went on the attack.
Now, a male teacher is dead and five others are injured — two of them teens with serious stab wounds — and the masked stranger is being treated for a gunshot wound, the Local reported.
Following the attack, a Swedish hospital treated four seriously injured people who required surgery, one teacher and two male students aged 11 and 15, the Guardian reported. One of these injured was the suspect, and he was reported to be in serious condition. A teacher died at the scene.
No one knows who the attacker is, whether he is Swedish, from the area or an outsider, and police have not yet pinned down a motive for the school attack. All that is known for certain is that he is in his 20s.
“There are a lot of people outside the school. A lot of people are crying because they’re so worried. It’s very chaotic; parents are running around to find their children,” said a Swedish woman, Ribana Boskovic, who lives nearby.
Some witnesses claim he carried a long sword, others a knife, and police have indicated that he carried more than one weapon, including “at least one knife-like object.” Swedish reports also indicate the man wore a Star Wars mask.
He entered the school, located in the industrial city of Trolhättan in western Sweden, around 10 a.m. Students locked themselves in classrooms and cupboards to escape the attack, while others remained confused about what the strange masked man was doing.
“When we first saw him we thought it was a joke. He had a mask and black clothes and a long sword. There were students who wanted to go with him and hold the sword,” a student told a Swedish media outlet.
Another teenaged student described the unfolding scene to Swedish media.
“I was in a classroom with my class when one of my classmates’ sisters called her to warn her that there was a murderer at the school. So we locked the door to the classroom, but our teacher was still outside in the corridor. We wanted to warn him, so a few of us went outside and then I saw the murderer, he was wearing a mask and had a sword. Our teacher got stabbed. The murderer started chasing me, I ran into another classroom. If I had not run, I would have been murdered. I’m feeling really scared. Everyone’s scared here.”
News reports described a scene of utter chaos and confusion at the school, and it’s not clear who called police, when they arrived, or how they engaged the suspect. Student and staff were ordered to evacuate following the attack and, at one point, an ambulance arriving on scene crashed into a wall. Pupils sobbed on site, and police cars swarmed the area. At some point, police fired two shots at the suspect and one hit him.
A violent attack on a school is a rarity in Sweden; the most recent attack occurred in the 60s, and police foiled another planned attack in 2004. The school in Trollhättan teaches 400 students aged 6 to 15. And the neighborhood may give some hint as to the circumstances that led to Thursday’s violence, however, lacking information about the suspect, police haven’t confirmed any connection.
According to the Guardian, two hours before the attack, Swedish officials announced that they planned to welcome 190,000 refugees this year. Immigration and asylum are controversial subjects in the country. Just last August, a person who failed to find asylum in Sweden stabbed two people to death in Stockholm. Arson attacks on refugee centers followed.
And the city of Trollhättan is located in a disadvantaged area called Kronogården; half the people who live there are immigrants, and the region has been identified as a “forgotten suburb” in a recent report. The city itself is reportedly highly segregated.
“These suburbs are big trouble and you cannot say that Sweden is an integrated country. We have used these suburbs as a repository for those that do not fit into normal society,” said the report’s author, Jan Edling.
[Photo via YouTube Screengrab]