A masked man brandishing a sword and with a reported history of Hilter and Nazi Germany idolisation, has killed two people and seriously wounded two others at a school in Sweden before being shot by police.
ALEX HEINKE reports.
Pictures taken by students and circulating in the media showed the assailant wearing black clothes and a Darth Vader-like mask, with school children initially thinking it was a prank or a Halloween costume.
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The attacker, who went from classroom to classroom, struck on Thursday morning at a school for six to 15-year-olds with many newly-arrived immigrants, in the southwestern town of Trollhattan.
One teacher was found dead at the school – described in the media as a “problem school” – while a young male student and the assailant died in hospital several hours later.
“The assailant knocked on two classroom doors and he attacked the two students who opened the doors,” police investigator Thord Haraldsson said.
Hospital staff had previously confirmed that two boys, aged 11 and 15, were in critical condition with stab wounds, while another teacher who was seriously wounded in the attack also underwent surgery.
The assailant was a 21-year-old man from Trollhattan but police have not disclosed his identity nor any further information about him or the motive.
He did not have a criminal record and was not known to police, said law enforcement officials as police searched his home for clues.
However, Swedish news agency TT and daily Expressen reported that he had a YouTube account where he posted material glorifying Hitler and Nazi Germany and critical of Islam and immigration to Sweden.
The anti-racism magazine Expo meanwhile said its police sources said they were investigating a “political motive”.
Police were alerted to the attack at 10.10am local time, arriving at the scene five minutes later.
“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 student identified only as Laith told Swedish television SVT.
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.
Police said several knives were used in the attack.