Ikea murders in Sweden and the refugee backlash
OCTOBER 01, 2015 6:26 PM
Abraham Ukbagabir takes two knives from a shelf in Ikea. Picture:
Vastmanland District Court
AN IKEA bloodbath in Sweden has thrown the progressive country into
violent chaos as the refugee crisis takes its toll.
Last month, a devastated asylum-seeker who had been refused refuge
responded with an alleged double-murder at the iconic furniture store,
sending shockwaves around the nation.
Abraham Ukbagabir was told he would have to seek asylum in Italy
because he had been “the subject of some altercation” there, according
to a police report seen by The Washington Post.
A fellow Eritrean staying at the same shelter near Vasteras, 100
kilometres west of Stockholm, had just been granted permission to
stay, and Ukbagabir was consumed with envy.
The furious 35-year-old invited his more successful compatriot,
Yohannes Mahari, to accompany him to Ikea to buy a mobile phone. He
led the younger man to the kitchenware department and began picking up
pots and then butcher knives, slipping off the packaging on the
Before a nervous Mahari could figure out what was going on, the older
man had stabbed a Swedish mother and son and plunged the knife into
his own stomach.
While shocking, the “mad” attack six weeks ago has had more alarming
consequences than anyone could have predicted. It was followed by a
wave of misinformation about the Eritreans’ non-existent terrorist
links, igniting bubbling tensions over the escalating refugee crisis
and extreme expressions of nationalism that jar with Sweden’s
The 35-year-old refugee before the alleged killings, with fellow
Eritrean Yohannes Mahari behind him. Picture: Västmanland District
The fatal attack on Carola Herlin, 55, and her son Emil, 28, on August
10 has become “the most scandalous in recent Swedish history,”
according to The Washington Post.
Mahari was at first detained along with Ukbagabir, after he ran from
the scene. Bloggers quickly started spreading rumours that the two men
had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) and beheaded their white
victims in the famous furniture emporium.
Bjorn Soder, a politician from the increasingly popular far-right
party Sweden Democrats, blamed the pro-immigration policies that have
seen the nation take in more refugees than any European country except
Germany (75,000 in the first six months of this year).
“It may be time to recall how [Frederik] Reinfeldt wanted us to ‘open
our hearts’ and how he thanked ‘for choosing Sweden,’” he wrote on
Facebook. “Don’t think the murdered mother and son at Ikea in Vasteras
would agree with ex-prime minister ... Time to wake up, Swedish
Stockholm University criminology professor Jerzy Sarnecki told Radio
Sweden police were forced to reveal more information than they
normally would in an effort to stem disturbing “racist rumours”.
Mahari was released three days after his arrest, when Ukbagabir woke
up in hospital and confessed, but his lawyer, Maria Wilhelmsson, told
the radio station the 23-year-old had received several threats and
police had set up a protection detail for him.
Ukbagabir, right, and a woman thought to be victim Carola Herlin,
left, in the kitchenware department. Picture: Västmanland District
Police chief Per Agren told the BBC officials feared a backlash from
“dark forces” that wanted to exploit the case. Just days after the
attack, demonstrators threw eggs at the Swedish refugee shelter where
the men had been staying, and two bags of flammable material were
discovered nearby, leading to 83 being evacuated, local media
There are around 18,000 Eritreans in Sweden, a number expected to rise
significantly in the coming years since they are now the largest group
seeking refugee status after Syrians, according to The Local.
Malmo, Sweden’s gateway to Europe, is plagued by extreme violence,
with dozens of grenades launched there this year, and one explosion
taking place just hours before the Ikea attack. Bomb disposal troops
redeployed to the city from the Middle East have said it feels
The country is now desperately trying to share the burden around its
municipalities, but the backlash has already begun. The Ikea attack is
seen by many as the symbolic expression of an assault on Sweden’s
It’s a violent example of the chaos engulfing Europe and the world, as
the refugee emergency reaches boiling point.
Originally published as Ikea murders reveal a dark side
Received on Thu Oct 01 2015 - 10:31:28 EDT