STOCKHOLM - Number 7 Sandvagen Street looked like all the buildings in the quiet Swedish town Limmared – one in a row of two-story buildings surrounding an inner courtyard, their balconies facing the street.
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Mohammed Tahsin al-Bazam, who lived on the first floor of this building for the past few years, was shot dead on Saturday night by persons unknown who fled the scene immediately after the shooting.
“I was in the car outside the house when one of the girls called and said she heard shots,” Bazam’s father told me. “Some of the men climbed to the balcony, went into his apartment and opened the door from inside. Mohammed was lying there, with a bullet wound in the neck. He was still alive but unconscious. He didn’t say anything.”
The Fatah movement and other Palestinian sources accused the Mossad of assassinating Bazam, a former Gaza Strip resident in his 20s whose family supports Hamas.
However, in an interview with a Palestinian news agency, Bazam's father said his son worked in marketing and was not involved in politics.
Bazam’s family members who live in Sweden said in an interview this week that they didn’t know if their relatives in Gaza are involved in politics. The conversation took place in the home of Bazam’s parents, Abu Hassan and Asma; one of his younger sisters was present.
When I came to the neighborhood I was first treated with suspicion. A man followed me in his car, writing messages on his mobile phone. When I told him I was a journalist, he said Bazam's family would come to me. A few seconds later Abu Hassan arrived and asked me to follow him. He took me to the family home, where there were several adults and children.
The couple has 12 children and 13 grandchildren. Abu Hassan declined to be photographed but wasn’t hostile. He told me he immigrated to Sweden alone in 2006 and his family joined him later. Some of the couple’s children were born in Sweden.
Mohammed was the couple's fourth child. Their second son, Hassan, was killed in Gaza in 2008, two years after Abu Hassan left for Sweden. The family still owns a house in Gaza and has visited it three times in the last few years, most recently in 2013. Abu Hassan was a contract worker but now is chairman of the Muslim community in the Tranemo municipality, which Limmared is a part of.
“I came to Sweden to make sure my family had a safe home,” he said. “Now it turns out we’re not safe even in Sweden.”
According to the Swedish police report earlier this week, several people wearing masks entered the apartment through a balcony on Saturday evening and shot the man inside. They disappeared after the shooting.
“I got there immediately,” the father said. “The shooters were no longer there. Family members arrived from the whole neighborhood. We tried to get in but the door was locked.”
Some of Abu Hassan’s sons-in-law broke into the apartment through the balcony and opened the front door. When they entered his son was still alive, but unconscious, said Abu Hassan.
“We took him to a local hospital, from where he was taken by helicopter to a larger medical center in Gothenburg, where he died of his wounds,” he said.
Contrary to the police report, the father recalls that it wasn’t the assassins who broke into the apartment through the balcony but the relatives, who wanted to help Bazam.
Abu Hassan had his own version of the chain of events, but wouldn't say where he got it from. According to him, “Mohammed opened the door to two men he didn’t know. When he saw they had guns he closed the door and locked it, but the men immediately fired two shots through the door and hit him. They were professionals.”
His daughter added that they must have had silencers.
“If I had come a minute earlier it wouldn’t have happened. But I was too late and they got away,” he said.
On Thursday Abu Hassan traveled with his wife to Mecca, to pray “for Hassan and Mohammed.”
“He was a good guy, 27 years old, a nice man who never harmed anyone and gave to everyone,” Bazam’s sister told me.
Both she and Abu Hassan denied reports that Bazam had a criminal record and said that he wasn’t involved in politics. Abu Hassan noted he didn't have any conflicts, disputes or entanglements with criminal elements. “We all live around here, we were in touch all the time, if there had been anything like that we’d know about it," he said. "He had an open heart, everyone loved him.”
When asked about rumors that foreigners were involved the shooting, the father said: “People say what they want. I won’t comment on things that have no evidence of. We rely on the Swedish police, they’re doing a good job and I’m sure they’ll catch the perpetrators in a few days.”
A police notice banning entry was posted on the apartment door, which bore the marks of a break-in. It was difficult to tell if some of the holes were made by gunshots. The apartment opposite Bazam’s on the first floor was opened by two youngsters when I knocked on their door. The two, who seemed related to the family, refused to talk to me.
The apartment above Bazam's, on the second floor, appeared uninhabited; there was no name on the door and nobody answered when I knocked. Across from it lives a young man and his cat.
“Yes, I was here when it happened on Saturday," he said. "I was sitting with friends, eating. I heard one shot and then heard people trying to get in. I didn’t see the shooters, only the people gathering afterward. I met the murdered man a few times but I don’t know him. I don’t meddle with other people’s affairs,” he added.
In the town center, a few minutes’ drive from the neighborhood, there’s a square, a supermarket, a few small shops, a small pizzeria and a children’s playground. Everyone I spoke to here had heard of the murder but none had known the murdered man.
Four teenagers wandering in the square said they too heard of the event but didn’t know the victim. “Sometimes there are break-ins here and small incidents like that, especially in the last two years,” one of them said. “But never something like this.”
"It’s usually quiet and safe here," said aman coming out of the supermarket. "I wasn’t around on Saturday but heard about it in the media and it surprised me. I’ve never heard of a murder here.”
A young couple sitting in the square told me they didn't think there were gangs or organized crime in the area.