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Trump, aides say Swedish comment was about crime, not terror

President Donald Trump speaks at the Boeing South

President Donald Trump speaks at the Boeing South Carolina facility in North Charleston, S.C., Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

President Donald Trump and his aides sought Sunday to recast remarks he made at a weekend rally widely perceived to suggest an attack occurred Friday night in Sweden, although that country’s officials said they were unaware of any “terror-linked major incidents” at that time.

“My statement as to what’s happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden,” Trump tweeted Sunday evening.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders clarified to reporters in Palm Beach, Florida, that the president was talking “about rising crime and recent incidents in general,” not a specific incident, after watching a news report.

During a rally Saturday in Melbourne, Florida, Trump referred to several countries that have taken in a disproportionate number of refugees and that have recently been struck by attacks.

“We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” he said.

Trump went on to refer to Paris, Nice and Brussels, cities where attacks occurred in the past two years.

A spokeswoman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press on Sunday that authorities were not aware of any “terror-linked major incidents” that occurred Friday night in Sweden. According to the spokeswoman, the Swedish embassy in Washington has asked the U.S. State Department to clarify Trump’s remarks.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

The White House already faced criticism this month after it included an incident in the Swedish city of Malmö o its list of allegedly underreported attacks. In October, arson caused smoke damage at an Iraqi community center in Malmö. A judge, however, decided that there was no evidence for treating the incident as a “terror attack” — months before the White House released the list that referred to the incident.

Although Sweden views itself as increasingly isolated in regard to its pro-immigration stance, the country found widespread cross-European support on social media Sunday. “Dear @realDonaldTrump,” Alexander Stubb, the former prime minister of Finland tweeted. “Sweden is immigration friendly, international & liberal. One of the most prosperous, richest, safest places on earth.”

With The Washington Post

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