TROLLHDTTAN, Sweden, Oct 22, (Agencies): A knife-wielding masked man stabbed four people Thursday at a school in southern Sweden, killing a teacher and a student before being shot dead by police, authorities said. One student thought the man had something to do with Halloween. Students fled from the Kronan school in Trollhattan, near Goteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city, as the attack took place in a nearby cafe just after 10 a.m., police said.
The school has 400 students ranging from preschool to high school. Police arrived to find one male teacher already dead and three other people seriously wounded — two male students aged 11 and 15 and another male teacher, police spokesman Thomas Fuxborg told The Associated Press.
Police fired two shots, one of which hit the attacker, he said. One student and the attacker died later at the hospital, authorities said. The attacker, a 21-year-old from Trollhattan, knocked on the doors to two classrooms and stabbed those who opened them, police spokesman Thord Haraldsson told a press conference. He said the man had “sharp stabbing weapons,” which another police official told the AP may have included a sword.
Police searched the attacker’s home and found “interesting” things, Haraldsson added, without elaborating. Police spokesman Stefan Gustavsson said authorities knew the attacker had killed the teacher “because of the wounds he had.” Laith Alazze, a 14 year-old student at Kronan, said at first he thought the attacker — who was clad in black and wearing a mask — had something to do with Halloween. “One of my friends walked over to him to challenge him, but when we saw he stabbed him (the teacher), we ran away,” Alazze told Sweden’s TV4.
The attacker had gunshot wounds to his lower chest and died later Thursday at the hospital, officials said. Police spokeswoman Maria Randsalu said the second victim was a student, but did not say which one. The three wounded, all in serious condition, underwent surgery at the Norra Alvsborgs Lanssjukhus hospital. Dr. Lars Spetz told reporters the teacher had been stabbed in the abdomen while the two students were stabbed in the abdomen, liver and chest. “They hover between life and death,” Spetz said. Swedish media said the school held a meeting Thursday morning to discuss teachers’ fears that they could not control access to the school.
The Dagens Nyheter newspaper said students must go through a public cafe to reach the school’s cafeteria and other parts of the building. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who went to the scene, described Thursday as a “black day.” “My thoughts go out to the victims and their families, the students and staff, and the whole community that has been affected,” Lofven said. “No words can describe what they are going through right now.” King Carl XVI Gustaf said Sweden was “in shock” following the attack and that the royal family received the news “with great dismay and sadness.” Police were alerted about the incident at 10:10 am (0810 GMT) and have already identified the attacker. However they have not disclosed any information about him and the motive for the attack remains unclear. “When we first saw him, we thought it was a joke. He was wearing a mask and black clothes and (carrying) a long sword. Some students wanted to take their picture with him and feel the sword,” one unidentified student told news agency TT.
When the man started attacking people, he quickly realised it wasn’t a joke and fled as the assailant went from classroom to classroom looking for victims. TT said several knives were used in the attack. Police said there was “a lot of confusion” at the school, saying there were still pupils and teachers inside more than two hours after the attack. According to its website, the Kronan school has around 400 pupils, including many newly-arrived immigrants. Swedish media described it as a “problem school”. It had been criticised by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate for its lax security and on account of a number of disruptions which prevented the pupils from learning. Teachers had complained to the inspectorate about the school library and cafe being open to the public and creating an insecure environment for the children, TT reported.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was expected to visit the town later on Thursday, parliament’s Twitter account said. “This is a black day for Sweden,” Lofven said in a statement. “My thoughts go to the victims and their families, the students and staff, and the entire community. No words can describe what they’re going through right now.” Crisis teams were at the school assisting parents and students
. But some parents outside were unhappy at the way the school handled the attack. “No one from the school called me. I found out what happened from a neighbour when I was carrying out the trash. I got into my car and came here,” one father told TT after being reunited with his young daughter. The girl, who was not identified, said the head teacher had come into her classroom and told them to stay inside and lock the door. “We didn’t know what was happening,” she said. Trollhattan is an industrial town of 57,000 and home to the former Swedish carmaker Saab which filed for bankruptcy in 2012. School attacks are rare in normallytranquil Sweden. A1961 school shooting in Kungalv, in southwestern Sweden, left one person dead and six others injured. No other mass shootings have occurred since then, though at least one attack has been foiled, in the southern city of Malmo in 2004. Other threats have been issued but not followed through.