An investigation by Swedish news agency TT suggests that Stockholm terror suspect Rakhmat Akilov was in direct contact with high-level members of Isis before, during and after the April 2017 attack.
The news agency, in collaboration with US government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), investigated online chat conversations Akilov had on app Zello with 12 contacts described by the prosecutor in the case as “terror related”. Almost all of the conversations were in the Tajik language, while one was in Uzbek and one in Russian.
According to the preliminary investigation document, as he hijacked the truck used in the attack which killed five people Akilov sent a picture of himself behind the windshield via Zello to a contact called “Togut Shikan”. Llater during police questioning, he told officers he was speaking with two people via the app as he drove the truck down Drottninggatan.
One of them was someone Akilov called Abu Osama Noraki (“Osama’s father from Nurek” – an area of Tajikistan), who he said in questioning is the “Amir” (ruler) of his state.
“He was the one who guided my actions,” he claimed.
Sirojiddin Tolibov, an RFE reporter who has investigated Isis supporters from Central Asian countries, told TT “it looks like the attack was coordinated from Mosul in Iraq by high-ranking non-Arab leaders within Isis”.
Isis has not claimed responsibility for the April 7th attack in Stockholm.
According to Tolibov, accounts that can be linked to several of Akilov’s alleged contacts are still active, and RFE/RL receives “recurring confirmatory information” about the people.
“We follow these militant people closely, and have done so both before and after the attack,” he explained.
Because accounts on the app can be registered anonymously it is difficult to pin down who is behind them, but TT says that Abu Osama Noraki is a name used by a known Isis leader from Tajikistan.
Several of the users of the chat app mentioned in the police investigation are still active, the news agency added, including one named Togu Shikan (“Destroyer of idols” in Tajik) which has 14,600 subscribers and supports the “Islamic Caliphate”. Several of the account’s administrators have Isis flags as their profile images.