An Uzbek asylum seeker who confessed to wanting to mow down “infidels” in an April 2017 Stockholm truck attack that killed five people and wounded 10 pleaded guilty to terrorism charges on Tuesday as his trial opened.
Rakhmat Akilov appeared in the Stockholm courtroom, where he was charged with terror-related murder and attempted murder, handcuffed amid tight security, wearing green prison clothes and with a shaved head and a beard, accompanied by his lawyer, Johan Eriksson.
Akilov, whose Swedish asylum application had been rejected in 2016, had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State terror group on the eve of his assault in one of Europe’s safest cities, though the jihadist group never claimed responsibility.
On the afternoon of Friday, April 7, Akilov stole a beer delivery truck and barreled down a bustling pedestrian shopping street, swerving wildly to hit as many people as possible. He was arrested hours later.
Five people were killed — a British man, a Belgian woman and three Swedes, including an 11-year-old girl.
“Yes, it was Akilov who drove the truck that day,” his lawyer Johan Eriksson told the court. “Akilov took the truck … and drove it the way the prosecutor described. He killed five people and physically injured 10.”
The prosecution has requested that he gets a life sentence and is extradited from Sweden.
He has said he wanted to punish Sweden for participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Throughout the nearly 10-month probe, Akilov has been cooperative, according to his lawyer and the prosecution.
Three interpreters were at hand during the trial, which is expected to end May 9. A verdict is expected before the summer.
Akilov had said he offered to the Islamic State group to carry out an attack in Stockholm on behalf of the group. It was not clear whether the group had accepted his offer.
Investigators have found internet chat logs with unknown people in which Akilov discussed becoming a martyr and swore allegiance to IS between January 12, 2017, and the attack on April 7, as well as a memory card with “material that can be connected to IS,” including execution videos.
The construction worker, who was 39 at the time of the attack, was subject to deportation from Sweden ahead of attack as his asylum application had been rejected.
Akilov had been ordered to leave Sweden in December 2016. Instead, he went underground, eluding authorities’ attempts to track him down. Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency has said it had nothing indicating he was planning an attack.
Security was high Tuesday, with heavily armed police officers and scores of reporters going through metal detectors before entering the courtroom.