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US ran ‘secret terror hunt’ in Sweden: report

US intelligence agents have staked out suspected "terrorists" in Sweden, without the authorisation of the government there, the online edition of a Swedish daily reported Sunday.

US ran 'secret terror hunt' in Sweden: report

Sweden’s intelligence service Säpo discovered in 2009 that two Americans were conducting illegal, under-cover investigations in Sweden, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily reported.

The two men were discovered when Säpo noticed them tracking people who it was also investigating for suspected ties to terrorist groups, the paper said, quoting several unnamed sources close to Säpo.

Washington had not informed Swedish authorities of the agents’ activities in the country, and soon after their activities were discovered, the two US citizens left the country, the paper added.

Referring to Washington’s failure to inform Pakistan before it tracked and killed Osama bin Laden three weeks ago, Svenska Dagladet insisted “the US has also carried out intelligence against terrorists on Swedish territory.

“Sweden has thus become the scene of a foreign power’s terror hunt without the knowledge of the Swedish government,” it said.

Säpo could not be reached late Sunday. Head of the agency Anders Danielsson refused to comment when confronted by the paper.

Following the report, US embassy spokesperson Christopher Dunnett stressed the importance of cooperation between the United States and Sweden.

“We have excellent cooperation with Swedish authorities in a several areas, including anti-terror activities,” he told the TT news agency on Monday morning.

He refused to elaborate, however, on the allegations of unauthorised spying.

“We don’t comment on security issues in detail,” he said.

Neither justice minister Beatrice Ask nor foreign minister Carl Bildt were willing to comment on the matter Sunday night.

Speaking on Monday, prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he wasn’t aware of the details surrounding the US agents’ alleged activities in Sweden.

“I don’t want to speculate on information in the media because we have very independent agencies in Sweden which operate in their respective areas of responsibility,” he told TT.

“I want to note that in this case the responsible agency hasn’t confirmed or denied (the report).”

Reinfeldt didn’t expect to pursue the matter further and emphasised that Sweden has a solid and close cooperation with the United States.

If the report about the unauthorised US spying is true, it amounts to a serious allegation, according intelligence expert professor Wilhelm Agrell.

“There’s no support for this in international law. What’s problematic is running an operation like this without going through the Swedish authorities,” he told the TT news agency.

According to Agrell, it’s more common for “less friendly states” to carry out unauthorised intelligence activities against exile groups, for example.

At the same time, he’s not surprised that the United States would do the same thing.

“It’s been common practice for the Americans since September 11th, 2001 to carry out operations both with and without consent from the country where the operation takes place,” he said.

Legal scholar Dennis Töllborg said it was “incredibly strange” that the CIA reportedly chose not to follow normal procedures by allowing Säpo to conduct surveillance on the suspected terrorists.

However, he doesn’t think that the CIA’s alleged decision to go behind Säpo’s back indicates that the US spy agency lacks confidence in agents from its Swedish counterpart.

“I believe more that after 9/11, the CIA has given itself rights which don’t have any limits at all, here and everywhere,” he told TT.

Töllborg added that he doubts the incident has damaged CIA-Säpo relations, but more that it amounts to an embarrassment for the Americans.

The new revelations cover operations different from the US embassy’s Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) which was the focus of an investigation by Sweden’s top prosecutor after reports surfaced in the media suggesting that the unit may have engaged in unlawful intelligence gathering.

However, prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand dropped the probe in early April because he was unable to gather sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations.

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ISLAM

Prominent Muslim head of free school seized by security police

The chief executive of a largely Muslim free school in Gothenburg has been placed in custody by the Swedish Migration Agency on the orders of the country's Säpo security police. It follows the arrests of other Imams in recent months.

Prominent Muslim head of free school seized by security police
He was seized on Wednesday and taken to an immigration detention centre in the city, Sweden's Expressen newspaper reported on Thursday
 
Abdel-Nasser el Nadi, chief executive of Vetenskapsskolan, is the fifth senior member of Sweden's Muslim community to be placed in custody in less than a month. 
 
Three prominent imams are now in custody: Abo Raad, imam of a mosque in Gävle, Hussein Al-Jibury, imam of a mosque in Umeå, and Fekri Hamad, imam of a mosque in Västerås. Raad's son is also being held. 
 
 
Sven-Erik Berg, the school's headmaster, told The Local that he had no idea what was behind the arrest. 
 
“We don't know anything. I don't know anything more than you,” he said. “We are doing nothing, but the school is naturally maintaining a dialogue with the Swedish School Inspectorate and their lawyers.” 
 
He said it was inaccurate to describe the school as a 'Muslim school' as it has no official confessional status. 
 
“The chief executive is a central person among Swedish Muslims, so naturally the group of people we recruit from are often those who have a relation to Islam or Sweden's Islamic associations,” he said. “But the school does not go around telling children what they should or shouldn't believe.”
 
On its website the school declares: “At our school everyone is treated equally irrespective of gender, religion, ethnic background, appearance, opinions, or abilities”. 
 
“We are one of the best schools in Gothenburg. You just have to look at the statistics,” Berg added.  
 
A spokesman for Säpo told Expressen that he could not comment on any of the five cases or on whether they were in some way linked. 
 
But according to the Swedish news site Doku, which investigates Islamic extremists, Säpo is probing whether el Nadi has any links to a network of Islamic militants.
 
In an article published last October, the site alleged that El Nadi's activism was part of the reason that so many young men from Gothenburg had travelled to fight for the terror group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. 
 
El-Nadi was previously the school's headmaster, and the school was in 2018 criticised by the Swedish School Inspectorate for not sufficiently promoting equality between girls and boys.
 
When he was interviewed by Dagens Nyheter a year ago, he asserted his loyalty to Sweden. 
 
“I have five children, all of whom were born in Sweden, a big family, and I want to protect this society in the same way that I have protected my children,” he said.  
 
El-Nadi was born in Egypt but has lived in Sweden since 1992. He has twice applied to become a Swedish citizen, in 2007 and 2011, and twice been rejected. 
   
 
 
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