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Sweden raises terror alert

The Swedish Security Service (Säpo) has raised the terror alert in Sweden to "elevated" due to an increased threat level.

Sweden raises terror alert
View of Stockholm from an aircraft

The Security Service has decided to raise the terror threat level by one step from low to elevated. This equates to a shift from level two to three on an escalating scale of five.

“This is a balanced assessment of the intention to commit a crime and the ability to commit crimes,” said Security Service head Anders Danielsson to news agency TT in explanation of the decision.

Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies (CATS) at the Swedish National Defence College, told The Local on Friday that while the move to an “elevated” threat level was unprecedented, it means in practice “alert but not alarmed”.

“It means that they are looking at the situation. It is in focus. It could also be a way to signal that ‘we are looking at you’, to try to pull them in,” he said while pointing out that compared to the situation in several other European countries, the threat level to Sweden remains low.

Had the threat been imminent the threat level would have been raised straight to five, Ranstorp explained, adding that “it could just as easily be lowered back to two.”

The decision was made in mid-September and the government was immediately informed, while the news was only made public on Friday.

A statement on the Security Service webpage explained that while “the threat to Sweden of a terrorist attack has recently changed,” it stressed however that, “the threat to Sweden is not currently assessed to be imminent.”

The Security Service decision to raise the threat level was based on a report by

Sweden’s National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT), which based

its findings on what appeared to be “a shift in activities among certain groups in Sweden, judged to be targeted at Sweden.”

“The Security Service is taking comprehensive measures to acquire further

information and to reduce the threat,” the statement said, pointing out that the

information it was working with was classified.

To reduce the threat could involve the detention of the person or people involved, Anders Danielsson said, while declining to say whether any arrests had been carried out.

“I unfortunately can not say anything about that, for several reasons as it would complicate solving the task. If we have not yet detained anyone it could complicate an arrest.”

When asked if the change in the terror threat level would have be noticeable by citizens, Danielsson replied:

“No, not really, but of course someone may see something.”

The Security Service was unwilling to confirm whether the move has any connection with recent warnings of terrorist attacks in Europe from several security services.

Terrorist-trained Islamists carrying European passports are reported to have arrived in Europe, or are on their way, from camps in Pakistan with the intention of carrying out spectacular attacks on European cities.

It is reported that the planned attacks are similar in nature to the raids in Bombay, India in 2008, according to UK security services to Sky News. The attacks targeted luxury hotel and a major train station, killing 166 people.

The security services are reported to have received the information from a 36-year-old German citizen, arrested in Kabul in July.

Magnus Ranstorp argued that while he was aware of the information, Sweden’s threat situation is more defined by links to Somalia and al-Shabaab adding meanwhile that he expected foreign security services to be monitoring the situation.

“There is a lot of focus on Somalia and al-Shabab. But this is mostly fundraising and recruitment,” he said, while ruling out that the election of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats into parliament had anything to do with the situation.

“I can say that I have heard on good sources, that it has nothing to do with the Sweden Democrats,” Ranstorp said.

Chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand at the Public Prosecution Office for Security Cases (Åklagarkammaren för säkerhetsmål) was on Friday unwilling to comment on whether an investigation had been launched.

“If there are any criminal investigation or whether anyone has been arrested, I would not answer for reasons of the investigation and of all the reasons in the world,” Lindstrand said.

He was neither prepared to specify where in Sweden the “altered activity” had been noted nor whether Islamists were behind the escalating threat.

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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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