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Three men 'planned terror attack on church'

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11:22 CEST+02:00
Three men have been charged with planning a terror attack against preacher Ulf Ekman's Word of Life (Livets Ord) evangelical church in Uppsala. The case is the first ever prosecution for terrorist offences planned to take place on Swedish soil, and only the second case ever under Swedish terror laws.

The alleged plot was unveiled during the investigation into last year's failed firebomb attack against an Iraqi polling place in Stockholm. Police found references to plans to attack the church in a computer belonging to a 22-year old man of Iranian origin referred to as Mehdi.

The Swedish security police, Säpo, found information in the computer allegedly linking two other men to the plans. They were identified as Milan, a 19-year old of Bosnian origin from Trelleborg in Skåne, and Johan, the 25-year old son of Swedish professionals from Kramfors in northern Sweden.

The three men met on Terrorist Media, a website with information about political violence. Medhi had also established his own Internet forum, Mujahedon.net. The strongest evidence against the men comes from Internet chatroom conversations and questioning.

"These men and their intentions must be taken seriously, but it is hard to say how serious their crimes are according to terrorism laws," said chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand, who said that the case was unusual and the law complicated.

Among the evidence presented by Lindstrand were pictures of the Livets Ord headquarters and a film showing two of the men studying the organization's website. In another film, Milan "warns the European people," which prosecutors interpret as expressing sympathy for Jihad.

"The motive for the plan is rooted in the fact that Livets Ord is pro-Israeli," said Lindstrand.

The controversial Christian movement, which has famous adherents including pop singer Carola, has expressed strong support for Israel, and actively encourages Russian Jews to move there.

The men had not decided when the attack would take place, and Lindstrand says he believes that it was prevented by the police's intervention.

Dagens Nyheter reports that Medhi had twice been convicted of smuggling a doping preparation and was sentenced in 2005 to four years in jail. He is also reported to have an interest in militant Islam.

He is charged with terrorism for carrying out the attack on the polling place in Kista, a Stockholm suburb, and for planning terrorist offences in relation to the alleged plot against the Word of Life.

He has admitted the attack in Kista, but has played down his role, claiming he was asked to sabotage the vote by an election official. He says he and two accomplices were payed 10,000 kronor. He is still being held by police, while his alleged accomplices have been released.

Milan is suspected of instigating terrorism, meaning he is suspected of encouraging others to commit terrorist acts. He refers to himself as a faithful Muslim, but speaking to DN he distanced himself from militancy or terrorism.

Johan, it is reported, stayed for three days at Mehdi's home in the Stockholm suburb of Vårby, after developing an interest in Islam. He denied to DN that he had converted. He is charged with assisting in an attempted terrorist crime and for conspiracy to commit terrorist offences. He has said in questioning that it was unlikely that he would have actually carried out the attack.

The three men have each given different information in police questioning, and have tried to blame each other. Johan has said that they had talked about different ways to set fire to Livets Ord's headquarters by alternatively drenching it in petrol then setting light to it with fireworks, or by smashing a window and throwing a petrol bomb through it.

"Given that the men are claiming innocence, we don't really know if they genuinely intended to carry out the plans," said Lindstrand.

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