LUTON, England - A website affiliated with al-Qaeda said Tuesday the suicide bomber behind the blasts that shook central Stockholm was targeting a newspaper linked to cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad but his bombs prematurely exploded.
Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi-born Swede who spent much of the last decade in Britain, died in the botched attack on a busy shopping street late Saturday, terrifying Christmas shoppers.
A writer on the Shumokh al-Islam website wrote that one of the bomber's six gas cylinders in his car exploded prematurely. The writer said the bomber then tried to escape but one of the bombs strapped to his body also exploded too soon.
Neither the writer nor the newspaper was named. Several Swedish papers published the cartoons, but Swedish police have declined to say whether any newspapers were the actual target.
Some Swedish investigators have speculated that Abdaly possibly intended to set off a blast inside a crowded department store near where he fell or a train station.
The plot has put back into the spotlight the English town of Luton, north of London, where Abdaly, 28, studied at the University of Bedfordshire, then known as the University of Luton. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in sports therapy.
On July 7, 2005, four bombers gathered in Luton before taking a train to London and blowing themselves up on the transit system.
Last year, the town was also the site of a small but widely covered protest in which a handful of Islamists picketed a homecoming parade for British soldiers returning from Iraq, holding up signs accusing the men of being "butchers" and "baby-killers."
A university official defended the campus, saying it was not a center of radicalism.
"We haven't had any cases of extremist activities on campus while I've been vice chancellor," said Les Ebdon, who has had the role since 2003.
Embarrassed officials at the Luton Islamic Center defended their decision not to report Abdaly to police even though they said his extremist views had prompted worshipers to confront him.
Farasat Latif, the mosque secretary, said officials would have told police about Abdaly had he shown signs of violence or instability.
"It's a judgment call," Latif said. "You have to give them space to express their views. We don't stop people coming to our mosques because they have beliefs that are unsavory."
He said that mosque officials had to gauge an individual's level of anger before reporting him or her to authorities.
"If they think it's OK to kill individual civilians, you have to call the police," he said. "But he never showed violent tendencies - just harsh criticism of the Muslim heads of states, like in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for being too pally pally with the United States while America is decimating Iraq."
Inspire FM, a local radio station favored by the Muslim community, has been overwhelmed by callers worried that the attack in Sweden is further dividing Luton, where a number of interfaith community groups are trying to keep tensions under control.
"People have been working hard to build bridges and then one individual does this and it all goes down the drain," said Faiz Nabi, a station manager.