The 2015 IKEA Stabbing Attack

Abraham Ukbagabir picking up the knifes just before the murders.
Abraham Ukbagabir picking up the knifes just before the murders.

The 2015 Ikea stabbing attack occurred on 10 August when Abraham Ukbagabir stabbed two random people to death in an IKEA store in the Erikslund Shopping Center in Västerås, Sweden as revenge for not being granted asylum in Sweden. The stabbing attracted worldwide attention. Ukbagabir was convicted of two first degree murders and sentenced to life in December 2015.


The perpetrator, Abraham Ukbagabir, a 36-year-old Eritrean man, took a knife from the kitchenware department at IKEA in Västerås, and attacked two random victims; a 55-year-old woman and her 28-year-old son, on a visit from a village outside of Skellefteå in northern Sweden. The attack was not caught on any surveillance cameras, but according to eyewitness accounts made to the Aftonbladet newspaper, the attacker stabbed the 55-year-old woman in her stomach. Her son died from wounds inflicted by the perpetrator when he tried to fend off the attack. The perpetrator then proceeded to stab himself in the stomach.

The police were silent about the case, which is standard procedure during criminal investigations in Sweden to prevent potential contamination of evidence, such as witness testimony. Information usually only becomes public after indictment, when the preliminary investigation is finished. A spokesperson for the police did however say that incident did not appear to have been an act of terrorism, and it did not have an obvious political or religious motive.


Abraham Ukbagabir confessed to the attack three days after the attack in a court hearing via telephone from his hospital bed. According to sources at the temporary accommodation he was staying at, the main suspect had lived in Italy two to three months prior to his arrival in Sweden, where he had worked as a fisherman. He had been denied asylum in Sweden just hours before the attack, and was scheduled for deportation back to Italy, where he had acquired a residence permit. His 23-year-old companion, also Eritrean, was initially arrested as an accessory to murder, but later released. On August 31, 2015 he was cleared of all charges.

The perpetrator remained for a period in hospital, watched by security guards, prison officers and under police surveillance. The district court ordered that he should undergo a full psychiatric assessment. The police expected to interview up to 600 people.

In October 2015, Ukbagabir was found guilty of two first degree murders and was sentenced to life, as well as permanent extradition. Svea Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence in December 2015. Ukbagabir told in court that he felt treated unfairly when his appeal for asylum was rejected and he decided to kill someone who looked swedish as revenge.


Following the attack, the Västerås IKEA temporarily closed and then suspended the sale of knives out of concern for the staff. Rumours about the attack run rampant in social media. A particularly widespread rumour was that the perpetrator was Somalian and had been heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” after decapitating the victims. The police refused to address any rumours, citing confidentiality during the preliminary investigation. This led to a debate about Swedish journalism ethics and lack of references in news based on race and religion versus the alternative media and their lack of ethics. On August 13, three days after the attack, the police were forced to break up an illegal demonstration outside the asylum centre where the two men linked to the murders had lived. A group of nine men carrying symbols of an extreme-right wing organization were holding anti-immigration placards, shouting anti-Arab slogans and throwing eggs at the building. Two days later the asylum centre closed after police found two bags of flammable liquid nearby.


The murders came at a time when public debate on questions of immigration and immigrant integration were becoming increasingly heated in Sweden, Scandinavia and Europe. In the immediate aftermath of the murders, online rumors flew about possible Islamic motivations of the perpetrators. But Eva Morén, assistant prosecutor for the Västmanland District Court, told The Washington Post that both Ukbagabir and Mahari are Christian.

Sweden Democrats MP Björn Söder referenced the Ikea murders in a Facebook post and called on Swedes to consign their long-standing “sjuklöverns” approach to immigration to the “trash heap.” Some MPs from other parties accused him of using the Ikea stabbings to push anti-migrant agenda and raised questions about his fitness to serve as second deputy speaker of the Riksdag.

The stabbings aroused fear that it would incite attacks on immigrants.



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