Wednesday, September 10, 2003

STOCKHOLM — Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, one of the country’s most popular politicians, was in critical condition today after being stabbed repeatedly yesterday while shopping at an exclusive department store in downtown Stockholm.

Police said they did not believe the attack was politically motivated and were searching for a man wearing a camouflage jacket, who fled the store. Mrs. Lindh underwent surgery at the Karolinska Hospital. Her wounds were serious but not life-threatening, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Doctors at the Karolinska Hospital said Mrs. Lindh had severe internal bleeding, but was conscious when she was brought in just before 5 p.m. yesterday

“The foreign minister’s condition has now somewhat improved but is still critical,” Dr. Lars Irestedt told a news conference 10 hours after the attack.

The hospital said in a statement: “We at once decided to operate. … During the operation, it was confirmed that there was severe internal bleeding from a wound to the liver and several large blood vessels in the abdomen.”

Mrs. Lindh, 46, was inside the Nordiska Kompaniet department store blocks away from the Parliament building when she was stabbed just before 4 p.m., witnesses said.

Hanna Sundberg, who also was shopping at the store, said she saw a man chase Mrs. Lindh up an escalator from the basement.

“She fell on the floor and the man was stabbing her in the stomach,” Mrs. Sundberg said. “When he ran away, he threw the knife away.”

Police spokesman Bjoern Pihlblad said Mrs. Lindh was stabbed in the arms, chest and stomach. He said police were searching for the man, whose identity was not released. The knife was recovered at the store.

Prime Minister Goeran Persson, visibly shaken, told reporters he was in contact with doctors about Mrs. Lindh’s condition.

“The situation is serious,” he said.

Mr. Persson called Mrs. Lindh one of the country’s most respected politicians and said security around all government buildings had been tightened.

Mrs. Lindh did not regularly have bodyguards.

A member of the Social Democrats, she has been head of the Foreign Ministry since 1998. She was a member of the Parliament from 1982 to 1985. She is married and has two children.

Mrs. Lindh, who is No. 3 in the government, often has been touted as a successor to Mr. Persson.

Sweden, a Scandinavian country of 9 million, has a reputation as a relatively safe place. Violence against politicians is rare.

But in 1986, Prime Minister Olof Palme was killed while walking home from a movie theater with his wife. The killing has never been solved.

Politicians in Sweden are often seen walking along the street or riding the subway without police protection.

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