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Swedish Foreign Minister Dies of Wounds After Stabbing

September 12, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

STOCKHOLM — Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died Thursday of wounds received when she was stabbed repeatedly in a Stockholm department store.

Swedes wept and brought red roses to the store, government offices and Karolinska Hospital, where she died. Police searched for a tall, stocky man with acne scars and long hair who chased Lindh up an escalator Wednesday before stabbing her in the stomach, chest and arms.

Police do not believe the attack was politically motivated, despite the fact that it came just three days before a referendum on adopting the euro, the common European Union currency backed by Lindh.

"Her children have lost their mother and her husband has lost his wife. The Social Democratic Party has lost one of its most skillful politicians.... Sweden has lost one of its foremost representatives, our face to the world," Prime Minister Goran Persson said.

The attack on Lindh, 46, raised concerns in Sweden and its Nordic neighbors about the openness of their countries, where it's common to see a prime minister jogging without bodyguards and politicians strolling the streets with their families.

Critics said Sweden's security agency, known as SAPO, should have learned more from the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme, who was shot in downtown Stockholm while walking with his wife. Like Lindh, Palme had no bodyguard.

Lindh even used public transportation to commute to the Foreign Ministry from her suburban home, European media reported. She had been quoted in the past as saying that "as a professional politician, I want to keep in touch with my people."

Although security was tightened after Palme's slaying, only the prime minister and the king routinely have round-the-clock protection. Other Cabinet ministers have it when security officials believe it is needed.

Since the attack on Lindh, security has been temporarily heightened around government officials, said acting SAPO chief Kurt Malmstroem. He declined to give details.

Flags flew at half-staff throughout the country of 9 million, and lawmakers observed a moment of silence.

"She was the hope of Swedish politics in the 21st century. She most probably would have become the next Swedish prime minister," said Barbro Hedvall, political commentator for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

Other tributes poured in. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell recalled: "She had a special energy, integrity and compassion, and she spent a great deal of her time focusing her efforts on global humanitarian issues. Anna was a cherished colleague and friend, and I will miss her."

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