Terror suspect Swedes freed from Pakistan

The Swedish foreign ministry has confirmed that four Swedish citizens, arrested in Pakistan in August as terrorist suspects, have been released and put on a flight to Stockholm.

The group include Mehdi Ghezali, who spent two years in Guantánamo Bay following his 2001 arrest in Afghanistan, as well as 28-year-old Munir Awad and 19-year-old Safia Benaouda, and their two and a half-year-old boy.

“I can confirm that they have been released,” Cecilia Julin, head of press at the Foreign Ministry told news agency TT.

The ministry has yet to receive a formal statement from the Pakistani authorities on the release. “We interpret it that they have come to the conclusion that there is not enough evidence to hold them,” Julin added.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Benaouda and her son were to be released “shortly” following a meeting between Pakistan’s Minister of the Interior Rehman Malik and Swedish Ambassador in Islamabad Ulrika Sundberg.

Malik, who is in charge of Pakistan’s police force, said on Tuesday that he would receive a report about the detained Swedes on Wednesday, at which time he would made a decision about their fate as soon as possible.

The Swedes have been detained since August 28th when they were arrested in northern Pakistan, along with seven Turks, an Iranian, a Russian, and one Pakistani, according the police.

The police reported that the group were found in a prohibited area near a nuclear power facility.

Police suspect the group was on its way to rendezvous with representatives from the Taliban in southern Waziristan, long considered a Taliban stronghold.

One of the Swedes claimed the group was in fact on its way to a meeting with a Muslim revivalist movement in the city of Lahore.

It took until September 16th for Swedish authorities to receive formal confirmation that the Swedes had in fact been arrested.

Lawyer Anton Strand, who is representing on of the men, received notification today that his client had been freed.

“Those who have worked with the case are relieved that it has been handled this way,” he said.

“No evidence or formal suspicions have been made against my client other than a recent issue over his visa, that he entered the country without sufficient papers.”

The group was released on Saturday morning and were accompanied to the airport by the Swedish ambassador.

No information have been given as to their expected arrival time in Sweden.

”Our responsibility stops at the airport in Pakistan and they travel home on their own accord,” Julin said.

“It is up to them if they want to give out information on when and where they land.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Sweden must prioritize anti-terror efforts: police

Swedish police and security agencies want the government to ensure Sweden is ready for future terror attacks, emphasizing the need for simulation training and more special response officers.

Sweden must prioritize anti-terror efforts: police

The national police, the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen, NBI) and the intelligence service Säpo want top commanders to be educated in counter-terrorism, top-level representatives said at a press conference held on Monday.

National police chief Bengt Svenson called for more training exercises and said Swedish security agencies needed more well-equipped vehicles in order to respond quickly to specific scenarios.

”We need the government to make counter-terror efforts a very clear priority in the mandate they give us, which allows us to put our resources into that field,” Svenson said.

His NBI counterpart, Klas Friberg, took the opportunity to underscore the need for extensive training and more exercises, all overseen by a coordinating body.

“We suggest a tactical council at the national level that brings together experts from the police and from the intelligence service,” Friberg said.

He and his colleagues also called for better communications equipment as they presented an overview of how well they think Sweden would respond if a large-scale terror attack was to take place.


The report authors have studied both the terror attack on Utöya island in neighbouring Norway and the failed suicide bomb attempt during the Christmas shopping rush in Stockholm two years ago.

“In the middle of all this tragedy, we were handed fantastic material to learn from,” said intelligence service head Anders Thornberg.

He said that the overview had made his agency’s responsibilities in case of attack more clear.

“We intend to get better at sharing information in order to benefit our operative capacity,” he said.

The assembled security heads said Sweden may have reacted more effectively than their Norwegian colleagues did when the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik went on his rampage.

“There are a few differences, and one of them is that we have a national command unit,” police chief Bengt Svenson said.

“The main criticism of how Norwegian police responded is that the local police station in Utöya was issuing orders.”

He welcomed that the Swedish government is currently looking into whether the police can have access to military helicopters if needed.

There is also support from government level, with Justice Minister Beatrice Ask responding favourably to Svenson’s call for expanding the capacity of the national response team (nationella insatsstyrkan), the Swedish national equivalent of a US SWAT unit.

The aim would be to expand capacity so that the unit can respond at two locations at the same time, which Ask has said is needed following the Utöya massacre.

The NBI has proposed adding 49 staff to the 50-strong team at an estimated annual cost of 30 billion kronor ($4.7 billion).

TT/The Local/at

Follow The Local on Twitter