Swedish ‘al-Qaeda leader’ killed in Iraq

The Swedish citizen who on Wednesday evening was reported to have been killed by US forces in Iraq was Abu Qaswara - according to the UN and EU one of the most senior al-Qaeda leaders in the country.

Swedish 'al-Qaeda leader' killed in Iraq

Abu Qaswara was killed in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq on October 5th, reported Reuters. Born in Morocco and known also as Abu Sara, Abu Qaswara was described by the US as the second-in-command in al-Qaeda in Iraq and the leader of the organisation’s groups in the north of the country.

Details about Qaswara’s death were discussed at a press conference in Baghdad on Wednesday by US Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

According to Sweden’s security police, Säpo, the man died in a fire fight with American forces when they tried to capture him.

“We’ve known about the man since the 1990s. He’s suspected of having led an Islamist network which has supported terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Africa,” said Säpo spokesperson Tina Israelsson to the TT news agency.

Among other activities, the network is believed to have sent jihadist volunteer fighters to Iraq, with the man having used Sweden as a base of operations.

“He came to Sweden in the middle of the 1980s, became a Swedish citizen in the mid-1990s and was here until 2006. In May 2006 he travelled to Iraq and hasn’t returned since,” said Israelsson.

The foreign ministry was made aware of the incident on Tuesday night.

“We are making contact with the American authorities,” foreign ministry spokesperson Miriam Mannbro told The Local.

The ministry was reluctant to release any further details until the family of the victim has been informed.

“But this could be difficult because they are probably abroad,” said Mannbro.

In December 2006 Abu Qaswara was named on the UN’s and EU’s ‘terror list’ and his assets have been frozen since then.

Säpo was aware of his activities.

“What we can say is that he has been the subject of investigations but he was never convicted of a crime,” said Åsa Hedin, head of information at Säpo.

The man was also suspected of taking part in terror attacks and fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

His role within al-Qaeda was not deemed by Säpo to pose a risk to Sweden or Swedish interests.

Sweden does not have any troops posted in Iraq.

Abu Qaswara’s death is expected to cause a major rift in al-Qaeda’s network, wrote the US military in a press release.


Lund professor freed student from Islamic State war zone

A chemistry professor at Lund University dispatched a team of mercenaries into an Islamic State (also known as IS, Isis or Daesh) war zone to free one of her doctoral students and his family.

Lund professor freed student from Islamic State war zone
Kurdish pershmerga fighters during the battle to retake the Yazidi homeland Mount Sinjar in 2015. File photo: Bram Jansse/AP/TT
Charlotta Turner, professor in Analytical Chemistry, received a text message from her student Firas Jumaah in 2014 telling her to to assume he would not finish his thesis if he had not returned within a week. 
He and his family were, he told her, hiding out in a disused bleach factory, with the sounds of gunshots from Isis warriors roaming the town reverberating around them. Jumaah, who is from Iraq, is a member of the ethno-religious group Yazidi hated by Isis. 
“I had no hope then at all,” Jumaah told Lund's University Magazine LUM. “I was desperate. I just wanted to tell my supervisor what was happening. I had no idea that a professor would be able to do anything for us.” 
Jumaah had voluntarily entered the war zone after his wife had rung him to say that Isis fighters had taken over the next-door village, killing all the men and taking the women into slavery.
“My wife was totally panicking. Everyone was shocked at how IS were behaving,” he said. “I took the first plane there to be with them. What sort of life would I have if anything had happened to them there?”
But Turner was not willing to leave her student to die without trying to do something. 
“What was happening was completely unacceptable,” she told LUM. “I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.” 
She contacted the university's then security chief Per Gustafson.  
“It was almost as if he'd been waiting for this kind of mission,” Turner said. “Per Gustafson said that we had a transport and security deal which stretched over the whole world.” 
Over a few days of intense activity, Gustafson hired a security company which then arranged the rescue operation. 
A few days later two Landcruisers carrying four heavily-armed mercenaries roared into the area where Jumaah was hiding, and sped him away to Erbil Airport together with his wife and two small children. 
“I have never felt so privileged, so VIP,” Jumaah told LUM. “But at the same time I felt like a coward as I left my mother and sisters behind me.” 
Firas Jumaah and his former PHD supervisor Charlotta Turner. Photo: Kennet Ruona
Luckily the rest of his family survived Isis occupation, while Jumaah back in Sweden completed his PhD and now works for a pharmaceuticals company in Malmö. The family has almost finished paying the university back for the rescue operation.
“It was a unique event. As far as I know no other university has ever been involved in anything like it,” Gustafson said.