Sweden ‘risks becoming terror base’

Sweden's security service, Säpo, has warned that there is a risk that Sweden could be used as a base for recruitment of terrorists. At least 20 Swedes have been arrested around the world on suspicion of terror offences since 2001.

“There is a risk of Sweden becoming a recruiting base for terrorists, and a base for the financing and planning of attacks in other countries,” said Säpo’s information director, Anders Thornberg, to Svenska Dagbladet.

Thornberg’s comments follow the publication of the Security Service’s annual report earlier this year, in which it was said that there was a “high risk” that Sweden would be used as a base for “recruitment, logistical support and planning” of terror attacks abroad.

The paper said that nearly all Swedes arrested had suspected links to Islamic extremists. Most of these were arrested abroad.

They include Mirsad Bektasevic, a Swedish citizen jailed for eight years by a Bosnian court for planning an act of terror, and Oussama Kassir, a Swede arrested on an Interpol warrant while in transit at Prague Airport. Kassir is suspected by US federal prosecutors of helping to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, and remains in Czech custody.

Another Swede, Mehdi Ghezali, was held in the American base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after allegedly having been found at a terror training base in Afghanistan. He was subsequently released from military custody, and was never charged either by US or Swedish authorities.

Säpo’s Anders Thornberg told The Local that the risk of a terrorist attack in Sweden was “low”, but that “there is a somewhat greater risk of an attack against American, British or Israeli interests in Sweden.”

“But it is also important to ensure that Sweden does not become a safe haven for terrorists planning attacks elsewhere. In our globalized world people move all over the place. Every country has to take its responsibility.” Thornberg said.

“The fact that there are a lot of people in Sweden with foreign backgrounds means that there could be a small number of people with links to terrorism,” he added. Terrorists with Swedish connections were more likely to be active abroad than on home turf, he said.

So far, only two people have been convicted under the 2003 Swedish terror laws. They were found to have helped finance Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish Sunni Islamist terror group, active in northern Iraq.