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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.

BREAKING

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”. 

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