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US removes Swede from terror list

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10:35 CEST+02:00
The American government has said it is removing Swedish citizen Ahmed Yusuf from its list of people suspected of links to terrorism. The decision means that a travel ban will be lifted and the freeze on his bank accounts ended.

The Swedish foreign ministry has criticized the fact that it has taken so long to remove the Yusuf from the list.

The Swede, who has Somalian roots, worked for al-Barakaat, an informal banking network centred on the east African country. After the attacks of September 11th 2001, American authorities said the bank was linked to terrorism.

The UN and the EU later incorporated Yusuf and two other Swedes into their list of terror suspects. This meant that the men's assets were frozen, even though no evidence had been produced. After a long legal process, two of the Swedes were taken off the list, but the US refused to remove Yusuf's name until now.

"This is of course extremely pleasing for him," his lawyer, Thomas Olsson, said.

"This has gone on for a long time now. We had almost stopped believing that these sanctions could be changed," he told news agency TT.

The decision means in practice that the United States will back the United Nations in removing the Swede from its sanctions list. The Swedish foreign ministry applied on Wednesday evening to the UN Sanctions Committee for Yusuf to be removed from its list of people with links to terror. When this happens, Sweden will ask the EU to do the same.

The foreign ministry hopes for the process to be complete within a week.

The Swedish government has been criticized for not doing enough to help the Swedes on the terror list, but Thomas Olsson was on Thursday complimentary about the foreign ministry.

"This result has been achieved since we, together with the foreign ministry, started this process in the United States to bring about a removal from the list. It is now time to be glad that Yusuf is finally free of these sanctions, and we share that gladness with the government today. We have achieved this result through partnership," he said.

Hans Dahlgren, cabinet secretary at the foreign ministry, said that Yusuf should have been removed from the sanction list earlier.

"Given that we believed that there were no grounds to have him on the list, it should have gone a lot faster. The conclusion we have drawn is that the UN sanctions system needs to be reformed so that those who don't belong on it can be taken off it more quickly."

Dahlgren could not explain why the US had changed its mind at this point.

Asked whether Sweden could have done more, he said that Sweden had worked very hard on the case.

"But we're not the ones who have made the decision, rather it's the UN Sanctions Committee. We have had regular contact with the Americans, who have to approve his removal from the list."

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