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Teens sign up for jihad at Stockholm youth centre

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16:21 CET+01:00
Swedish taxpayers helped fund a youth recreation centre in the north Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby which served as a recruiting station for the Somalia-based Islamist group al-Shabaab.

More than ten young people from the predominantly immigrant neighbourhood who spoke with Sveriges Radio (SR), said that the recruitment drive was led by a youth leader at the Kreativitetshuset recreation centre.

The recreation centre was started by a mosque and received a total of 480,000 kronor ($70,400) from the Stockholm city sports and recreation administration over four years before closing down in 2008.

"It's horrible. There was no suggestion of this when we had contact with the association when it was created," Per Johansson, head of the city's department for clubs and associations, told SR.

"Their paperwork was in order when they submitted it. And during the visits we made to the facility during the first year we didn't see anything to indicate something like this."

The head recruiter, said to be in his thirties, showed young people video clips from YouTube which encouraged viewers to sacrifice themselves for their beliefs.

“I saw how they showed images of war victims, decapitated heads, and all sorts of horrible things while repeating the same message the whole time. It had a big impact on those who weren't strong enough to stand up to it,” one young person who resisted the youth leaders urges to join al-Shabaab, told SR.

According to Swedish security service Säpo, al-Shabaab successfully recruited around 20 young people from Sweden, some of whom who have been killed in battle.

The news comes on the same day as the magazine Neo previewed an interview by journalist Per Gudmundson with the wife of another man from Rinkeby who was recruited by al-Qaeda in Iraq.

“I don't think he's done anything wrong. I see it as a part of our religion,” the man's wife told Gudmundson, who traced the man's journey from the Stockholm suburbs to the battlefields of Iraq after reviewing documents confiscated by the US military from al-Qaeda in Iraq hideouts near the Iraqi border with Syria.

The documents, known as the Sinjar Records, contain details about 606 foreign jihadist fighters, including the man from Sweden.

According to Magnus Ranstorp, head of research at the the Centre for Asymmetric Threat and Terrorism Studies (CATS) at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), there are hundreds of jihadists in Sweden, but the number has remained constant for several years.

“What we can see is that the number of jihadists in Sweden hasn't increased in recent years. The size of the group is relatively constant. The security police are good at keeping tabs on these people, which occurs either through their own investigations or by having Swedes highlighted in investigations abroad,” he told the Nyheter24 news website.

He added that many Swedish jihadists attempt to join terrorist groups in order to fight with the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as in other conflict zones like Iraq and Somalia.

Ranstorp also confirmed that al-Shabaab carries out “intensive recruiting” in Sweden, often using Somali associations and groups to help their efforts.

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