Sweden attacker appears baffled over lack of IS claim

Stockholm (AFP) - An Uzbek asylum seeker who last year murdered five people in a Stockholm truck attack after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State on Wednesday appeared confused when he was told the group never claimed responsibility for the assault.

Rakhmat Akilov, 40, who has pleaded guilty to mowing down pedestrians on a busy shopping street with a stolen beer truck on April 7, 2017, appeared handcuffed in a Stockholm court, with a long beard and dressed in dark green prison clothing, on the fourth day of his trial.

Speaking through a Russian interpreter, Akilov expressed no regret over the attack that killed three Swedes, including an 11-year-old girl, as well as a British man and a Belgian woman. Ten other people were injured.

The assault mirrored other truck attacks in 2016 that left scores dead, one in Nice in southern France, the other in Berlin.

Unlike in those attacks, however, IS never claimed responsibility for the one in Stockholm.

Gustaf Lindholm, a lawyer representing the victims and their families, asked Akilov: "IS has not claimed responsibility (for the attack)... are you aware of this?"

Sounding disappointed and surprised, Akilov asked: "They haven't claimed responsibility?"

Lindholm said: "No."

"That is Allah's will," Akilov replied.

His lawyer Johan Eriksson refused to comment on whether this was the first time the radicalised asylum seeker had heard about the lack of a claim from the jihadist group.

Since his arrest a few hours after the attack, Akilov has been held in solitary confinement, with only visits from his lawyer and some access to media permitted.

- 'Sought support' -

Before the attack, Akilov recorded a video of himself pledging allegiance to IS and said he had been given the green light for his attack by group members he was in contact with on encrypted chat sites.

His exchanges show he spent three months preparing his assault.

In mid-March, several weeks before the attack, he sent his contacts photos of his intended target for approval.

Swedish intelligence agency Sapo is still investigating the identities of these contacts. Akilov claims that he only knows their pseudonyms.

Chief prosecutor Hans Ihrman said "Akilov planned and prepared the attack on his own" and that "he didn't depend on other people".

Ihrman added that "the contacts did not have a decisive" role in the attack.

The Uzbek, who went underground after his Swedish asylum application was turned down in 2016, staged the attack in order to pressure Sweden into ending its support for the US-led coalition against IS.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a life sentence, which is on average 16 years, followed by his expulsion.