Terrorists love to exploit the deaths of children at the hands of the people they declare enemies. The propaganda of al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State is filled with images of mutilated toddlers that give the jihadis, they claim, license to take revenge and commit mass murder.
So, too, with white supremacistsincluding the alleged murderer of 49 people at mosques in New Zealand on Friday. They have seized on the image of 11-year-old Ebba Åkerlund, killed in a 2017 terror attack in Sweden and often made into memes, to feed their hatred. Her name was scrawled on to the butt of the New Zealand shooters assault rifle along with other pretexts for his revenge.
Her father, Stefan Åkerlund, told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladetthat he was mortified when he saw how the latest terrorist had used his daughters name. I broke into a cold sweat as soon as I saw that he had rifles with my daughters name, he said. How in hell can we ever get to mourn in peace?
The pretty little girl, who was partially deaf, went missing in the hours after Uzbekistan asylum-seeker Rakhmat Akilov drove a stolen beer truck through a crowd in Stockholm. Her parents posted photos of her smiling face with her wispy brown hair and amber eyes in a desperate plea to find their missing daughter. But their search was in vain. She had been crushed by the truck. Her impairment likely kept her from hearing any warnings to get out of the way.
Since Ebbas death, she has become a fixture on websites that traffic in hate speech. Her name is regularly invoked in the depths of the deep web, on sites like 8Chan and in white-supremacist anti-immigrant rants.
Ebba was mentioned several times in the 74-page right-wing manifesto allegedly posted in connection with the killing spree in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The author wrote that the shooting was motivated by the Swedish attack, which he said was different from others before it. That difference was Ebba Akerlund. Young, innocent and dead Ebba, the shooter wrote. Ebba death at the hands of the invaders, the indignity of her violent demise and my inability to stop it broke through my own jaded cynicism like a sledgehammer.
No one is more outraged than Ebbas grieving father, whose anger has also been exploited. When he posted photos on his Facebook page last month that showed how her grave allegedly had been desecrated more than 30 times by an illegal immigrant, the news was embellished and spread throughout the alt-right world of hate, implying that he, too, held white-supremacist views, which he does not. It is unclear whether the Christchurch suspect was enraged by those latest posts.
On Friday morning after the New Zealand attack, the grieving father posted on his Facebook page that he did not want his daughter associated with such heinous crimes.
When I testified in court, I said that I am reminded of my daughters death all the time and not only when I hear about about Drottninggatan [the neighborhood where she was killed], but also when similar acts occur in other countries, he wrote. But then of course I could not even imagine the idea that someone would write my daughters name on a rifle. He goes on to condemn the attacks in New Zealand. How sick it is.
Ebbas mother, Jeanette Åkerlund, also spoke out. It gives you chills, she told Aftonbladet. It is deeply tragic that Ebbas name is abused in political propaganda.