STOCKHOLM – Police stormed the Libyan Embassy in Stockholm on Thursday to arrest seven protesters who had occupied the building, torn down images of Muammar al-Qaddafi and threatened to commit suicide by jumping out windows.
No injuries were reported, and the embassy was empty of staff members, but it was the third time this year that Libyan exiles living in Sweden had occupied the building since the civil war began in Libya six months ago.
On Thursday, authorities first sent a negotiator into the embassy to talk with the protesters and placed inflatable mattresses around the building after the demonstrators threatened to jump from its windows, officials said.
But police then stormed the embassy after the protesters threatened to start a fire there, police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said.
Police arrested the seven protesters on suspicion of vandalization, trespassing, and preparation of arson, Lindgren said.
The standoff began after an embassy alarm was activated and police closed the road outside the building. The protesters, and a small group of supporters standing outside the embassy, waved a flag of the monarchy that ruled Libya before its 1969 coup. It has lately become the symbol of the rebels fighting Qaddafi's forces and is known as the "independence flag."
"The Swedish government and police are fully responsible for the safety of these Libyans," rebel spokesman Shamsedin Abdul-Mowla said in Benghazi, Libya.
He said the rebel council believes there was no reason to arrest them for wanting to hang the flag, used by protesters and rebels, if the Swedish government has recognized the rebel council as the sole representatives of the Libyan people.
Witness Helmi Alnadori said the demonstrators took control of the building and were shouting and throwing books and pictures of Qaddafi out of the windows. He said the situation was "complete chaos" when police arrived and encircled the embassy.
Qaddafi's opponents in Sweden were permitted to hoist the independence flag at the embassy in February, but it was removed after the appointment of a new ambassador loyal to Qaddafi.
In April, six people were arrested after demonstrators broke in to the embassy to protest the installation of the new ambassador.