Stockholm, Sept. 11: Sweden’s foreign minister Anna Lindh died after being repeatedly stabbed in the stomach, chest and arms while shopping in a department store yesterday, stunning a nation known for placid political consensus.
The 46-year-old Lindh, tipped as a future prime minister and counted among the most popular politicians in the country, had been a leading campaigner for Sweden to adopt the European Union’s single currency.
The government declared that the murder would not prevent a euro referendum from going ahead on Sunday. Opinion polls had shown voters were likely to reject it but analysts said the government might now reap a sympathy vote.
Police said Lindh’s killer, who fled after the assault, appeared to have been acting alone and it is not clear whether the attack was linked to the euro vote. Described as tall and “Swedish-looking”, the blood-stained attacker dumped his army jacket and knife near the scene. Surgeons at Karolinska hospital struggled all night to save her life, but she died of massive bleeding.
The murder reminded Sweden of the unsolved assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.
Lindh did not have a bodyguard when she was stabbed. Except for Prime Minister Goran Persson, Swedish politicians rarely have bodyguards. But the attack forced Persson to quickly increase security around top politicians and public buildings.
Hanna Sundberg, a witness, said she saw a man chasing Lindh, married with two children, through the store. “She lay on the floor and it looked as if a tall man, wearing a peaked cap, was hitting her. When he ran away, he threw away a knife.”
As blood streamed on to the floor, she heard Lindh cry out: “God, he has stabbed me in the stomach.”
Paramedics carried the minister out on a stretcher as tourists and shoppers enjoying the autumn sunshine looked on in shock. The scene appalled Swedish voters who are used to good manners at the hustings and television debates where voices are rarely raised.