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Stockholm’s Ahlens department store reopens, as Sweden pays tribute to the victims of last week’s attack in which a stolen beer truck mowed down shoppers before ploughing into the store’s facade.
Video provided by AFP
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STOCKHOLM — Swedes are known for their tolerant society, but last week’s deadly truck rampage by a frustrated asylum-seeker left many questioning whether the country’s open-door policy for refugees swung open too far.

“We’ve taken in more than we can help, and I don’t think that’s OK,” said Anna Lennartsdotter Lindbom, 42, a personal trainer in the Stockholm suburb of Alvsjö. “If we don’t get them to understand how our society works when they have grown up under a different system — that can be a problem.”

“I’m usually a liberal voter,” said Lindbom, but now she’s considering whether to vote for the far right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party in next year’s parliamentary elections.

Lindbom said the attack prompted many of her friends, neighbors and colleagues to support the Sweden Democrats. “A lot of people are saying they are the only party willing to take up the immigration question,” she said.

On Friday, a man from Uzbekistan who had been denied asylum plowed through a crowded street of shoppers in a stolen beer truck before crashing into a department store in central Stockholm, killing four and injuring 15. Rakhmat Akilov, 39, pleaded guilty to Friday’s attack and remains in custody, his lawyer said.

Sweden has taken in the most migrants per capita of any European country: In 2015, more than 160,000 applied for asylum in this country of 10 million, according to government figures. Most came from war-torn countries in the Middle East.

“Sadly, it was only a matter of time before such a terror attack hit Sweden,” Mattias Karlsson, leader of the Sweden Democrats in parliament, said after the attack.

Karlsson has long argued that asylum seekers pose a risk to Swedish security, and his party has attracted hundreds of thousands of supporters in the past decade as immigration to Europe rose. Last month, the polling firm YouGov found that the Sweden Democrats were the country’s most popular party, supported by 24% of the electorate — double the votes it received in the last national election held in 2014.

The Sweden Democrats have vowed to slash the number of asylum seekers if they assume power. Sweden introduced border controls with its neighbors in November 2015 for the first time in 20 years to regulate the flow of migrants.

The party’s supporters say the Swedish establishment, particularly the media, has failed to report on crime by immigrants who have come to the country in recent years out of political correctness and support for open borders.

That view is not accurate, said Jesper Strömbäck, a media professor at Sweden’s Gothenburg University who has studied crime coverage to test such claims. “There’s no evidence of this in the study we did,” he said.

The attack and anti-immigrant backlash is worrying some refugees about prospects for their asylum applications and how native Swedes view them.

One of them is Afghan asylum seeker Aziz Ahmed Azizzi, 19, in Strängnäs, a town west of Stockholm. He goes to the library every day to teach himself Swedish as officials process his application. He currently is not allowed to work and survives on temporary government aid.

“I came to Sweden to escape terror, and I wanted to show solidarity with the victims of terror here in Sweden, too,” said Azizzi, who took part in candle-lighting and a moment of silence for the truck attack victims.

“I believe that Swedes are good people,” he said, adding hopefully: “The Sweden Democrats will not do so well in the elections, I believe.”

Hinde reported from Edinburgh, Scotland.

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