Swedish Foreign Minister dies after frenzied stabbing attack

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The Independent Online

Sweden was in a state of shock after its Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, died today after being stabbed while shopping at an exclusive department store.

Ms Lindh, 46, one of Sweden's most popular politicians, was stabbed in the arms, chest and stomach causing severe internal bleeding and liver and stomach injuries. Surgeons fought through the night, trying to save her life.

Goran Persson, the Prime Minister, said: "It's with great sadness that I have the information that Anna Lindh died. It feels strange and it's difficult to understand."

Ms Lindh died just before 5.30am (0330 GMT), a sombre Mr Persson told reporters.

The attack cast a pall over the country's referendum on whether to adopt the euro, and campaigning on the issue was postponed for at least a day. It was later announced that Sunday's referendum vote will go ahead.

The Green Party leader Per Eriksson said: "For some people, this may bring back all the terrible memories of years back when Prime Minister Olof Palme was killed. This may very well lead to Swedish politicians having to have bodyguards from now on."

The attacker struck at about 4pm (3pm BST), four days before the country votes in a referendum on Swedish membership of Europe's single currency, of which Ms Lindh is a prominent advocate. Police said they did not believe the attack was politically motivated.

After the attack, Mr Persson said: "The attack is an attack on our open society, and because of this I am feeling great anger and dismay."

Hanna Sundberg, who was shopping at the exclusive Nordiska Kompaniet store when Ms Lindh was attacked, said she saw a man chase her up an escalator from the basement. "She fell on the floor and the man was stabbing her in the stomach," Ms Sundberg said. "When he ran away, he threw the knife away."

Witnesses said Ms Lindh was taken out of the building on a stretcher by three paramedics, with police surrounding her. She appeared barely conscious, breathing heavily into an oxygen mask. Police have recovered the weapon used in the attack.

Attention in Sweden had been focused on Sunday's referendum on joining the euro. Pro-euro supporters have been trailing in opinion polls and look to be heading for defeat, although their cause could benefit from a sympathy vote for Ms Lindh.

The assault sent shockwaves through the country and provided a vivid reminder of the unsolved murder in 1986 of the Mr Palme, who was killed as he walked home from a cinema.

Despite Palme's murder, Sweden likes to consider itself one of the safest countries in Europe. It is not uncommon for Swedish politicians to walk the streets or use public transport without police protection.

Ms Lindh had been head of the Foreign Ministry since 1998. She served as Environment Minister from 1994 to 1998 and is widely seen as Mr Persson's successor.

* Britain's share of EU inward investment has hit a new low and slumped to half of French levels, according to figures that will hearten beleaguered supporters of British membership of the euro. Investors appear to be putting their money into the 12-nation eurozone at the expense of countries outside.