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‘Guantánamo Swede’ arrested in Pakistan

One of the three Swedish nationals arrested nearly two weeks ago in Pakistan is Mehdi Ghezali, a former terror suspect who was released from the United States’ Guantánamo Bay prison in 2004.

'Guantánamo Swede' arrested in Pakistan

According to Sveriges Television (SVT), it was Ghezali, along with two other Swedes and several other foreigners, who was arrested by police in Pakistan on suspicions the group had ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

“We confiscated a laptop and $10,000 they had with them,” said a spokesperson for the Pakistani military, according to the Expressen newspaper.

The arrests took place at a checkpoint in Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province, when the group was reportedly on its way to southern Waziristan, a stronghold for the Taliban in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

The now 30-year-old Ghezali, a resident of Örebro in central Sweden, was arrested in December 2001 and put in custody of the US military shortly after the start of the campaign in Afghanistan.

He spent more than two years in a prison for terror suspects set up by the American military on its base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Ghezali, dubbed in the Swedish media as the “Guantánamo Swede”, was never put on trial nor was he told why he had been detained. He was released from the prison in July 2004, whereupon he returned to Sweden.

New reports that Ghezali has again been arrested in Pakistan on terror suspicions came as a surprise to his attorney, Anton Strand.

“Yes, I’m surprised by it. One should remember that Ghezali has traveled in that region previously and he has an interest in the region. He is religious and has friends and contacts,” Strand told Expressen.

Gösta Hultén, the Swedish journalist who wrote a book detailing Ghezali’s story, told the Aftonbladet newspaper that Ghezali’s father believes his son is on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and called home from there a few days ago.

“The father is very upset about the allegations that Mehdi has ties to Al-Qaeda. He has already been cleared from those suspicions once,” said Hultén.

Sweden’s foreign ministry in Stockholm refused to comment on the information, although spokesperson for the Swedish embassy in Islamabad told SVT that they have yet to receive any confirmation from authorities in Pakistan that Swedes have been arrested.

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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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