Swedish Foreign Minister Dies From Stabbing

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh (search), touted as a future prime minister, died Thursday from multiple stab wounds, the second Swedish politician to be murdered in the Scandinavian country in 17 years in a rare act of public violence.

Lindh, 46, died at 5:29 a.m. after 10 hours of surgery for severe internal bleeding and wounds to her stomach and liver after she was knifed in an upscale Stockholm department store Wednesday by an unknown assailant.

Police didn't believe the attack was politically motivated, despite the fact that it came just three days before Swedes vote in a referendum on adopting the euro. Lindh was a leading campaigner for replacing the Swedish krona with the common currency — an issue that had inspired vehement opposition.

Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson (search) said the Sunday referendum would continue as scheduled, but ordered all campaigning to end immediately.

"We want to encourage everyone to vote on Sunday," he told reporters, adding that leaders had considered postponing for a month, or even a year, but decided against it.

Lindh's death cast a pall across the Scandinavian country of 9 million, whose residents have always enjoyed easy access to their leaders. Lindh had no bodyguards, like Prime Minister Olaf Palme (search), who was killed in 1986 while walking home from a movie theater with his wife.

Only Persson and King Carl XVI Gustaf have permanent security details.

Choking on his words as he announced Lindh's death, Persson said the country's tradition of openness was forever damaged by the killing.

"The attack against her also hurt the society we've built up and which we want to live in," he said.

Police investigator Agneta Blidberg said every resource was being used to track down the assailant, who was last seen fleeing the store. Borders with Norway, Finland and Denmark were monitored closely and ferry traffic between Sweden and the Baltic states was also being watched.

"We are using all the means at our disposal," she told The Associated Press. No arrests had been made.

The Swedish security agency, known as SAPO, conceded that security could have been better, but stopped short of accepting blame.

"There was no threat against Anna Lindh and that's why she didn't have any bodyguard protection," acting SAPO chief Kurt Malmstroem told Swedish radio. "It is, of course, a failure in that this has happened. The future will have to show whether there has been an erroneous judgment."

But some criticized the agency, noting emotions were running high in the country because of the referendum.

"To put it mildly, how the hell can you say that there wasn't a threatening scenario in a politically inflamed situation?" said Jerzy Sarnecki, a Stockholm University criminology professor.

Many Swedes who went to bed believing Lindh might survive were stunned to learn of her death.

"I cannot believe it," said Michael Hirmiz, an Iraqi who immigrated to Sweden in 1984 and recalled Palme's murder. "Now it is happening here in Sweden again."

In the Riksdag, or parliament, lawmakers held a moment of silence, and flags flew at half-staff across the country. Many churches were kept open and a Thursday night memorial service was planned at Uppsala Cathedral.

Officials in neighboring Nordic countries called the murder a threat to the kind of accessible and mild-mannered societies they have tried to nurture.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said it was "a major setback and shock" to the region's culture of openness.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking in Geneva, said he "was shocked and deeply saddened" by the news of Lindh's death.

"Sweden has lost a successful and a great foreign minister, a great Swede and a great European. I have also lost a close friend and so has the United Nations," said Annan, whose wife, Nane, is Swedish.

In neighboring Finland, which has had a historically close relations with Sweden, police and border officials raised the state of alert at airports, ports and at borders, but declined to give details. The government declared Thursday a day of mourning.

Lawmakers in Germany's lower house of parliament fell silent as Parliament President Wolfgang Thierse interrupted a budget debate with news of Lindh's death.

"I can only express our revulsion at this deed," Thierse said. "Our solidarity is with the people, the parliament and the government of Sweden."

In Latvia, lawmakers honored Lindh with a moment of silence and Lithuanians lit candles and placed flowers near the Swedish Embassy in the capital, Vilnius.

French President Jacques Chirac telephoned Persson to convey his "great sadness and consternation" over Lindh's death, his office said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described Lindh as a close friend and said her death was a "terrible tragedy."

Lindh had been head of the Foreign Ministry since 1998, serving as environmental minister before that. She was a member of the Riksdag from 1982-1985. She was married and had two children.

Scandinavia is relatively immune to political violence, unlike other parts of Europe. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated in March by allies of Slobodan Milosevic seeking to topple his pro-Western government as he was heading to a meeting with Lindh. In the Netherlands, anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was shot to death by an animal rights activist in May 2002.