By Anna Ringstrom and Andy Sullivan (Reuters)
STOCKHOLM/WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that Sweden experienced an immigration-related security incident prompted a baffled response from the Scandinavian country on Sunday as diplomats asked for an explanation and citizens responded with amusement.
Trump, who in his first weeks in office has tried to sharply tighten U.S. borders on national security grounds, cited Sweden as a country that had experienced problems with immigrants in remarks at a rally on Saturday.
"You look at what's happening last night in Sweden," Trump said. "Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible."
That appeared to confuse the Swedish government, which asked the U.S. State Department to explain what the new president meant.
"We are trying to get clarity," Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said.
The State Department said it did not comment on diplomatic communications.
Trump has been widely criticized for making assertions with little supporting evidence.
In recent months, he has argued that more than 3 million people voted fraudulently in the U.S. election, an assertion that election officials say is false, and incorrectly stated that he won the election by the most decisive margin in decades.
Swedish news sources made no mention of a recent terrorism attack or other high-profile crime in the country.
"Nothing spectacular happened in Sweden on Friday," wrote the Local, an English-language website in Sweden.
Fox News, a U.S. cable news channel that has sometimes been cited favorably by Trump, ran a report on Friday night about alleged migrant-related crime problems in the country.
Sweden's crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as the country has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom appeared to respond to Trump's latest statement by posting on Twitter an excerpt of a recent speech in which she said democracy and diplomacy "require us to respect science, facts and the media."
Her predecessor was less circumspect.
"Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound," former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.
Other Swedes mocked Trump's remark on Twitter using the hashtag #LastNightInSweden, posting pictures of reindeer, Swedish meatballs and people assembling the country's famous IKEA furniture.
"#lastnightinsweden my son dropped his hotdog in the campfire. So sad!" Twitter user Adam Bergsveen wrote.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by David Goodman and Peter Cooney)