Sweden terror suspects tied to Islamists: report

The four terrorist suspects held in Gothenburg on Sunday have ties to the Somali Islamist movement al-Shabaab and were plotting an attack using bombs and firearms, according to a Swedish media report.

Sweden terror suspects tied to Islamists: report

Neither Sweden’s Security Service (Säpo) nor the police have confirmed the report, and have released few details about the arrests.

“Police suspect the men were about to carry out a terrorist attack with firearms and bombs,” Gothenburg regional daily GT said in its online edition.

“Police sources have told GT the suspects are linked to the terror network al-Shabaab,” the paper said, without disclosing its sources.

According to the TT news agency, the four suspects are all male between the ages of 23- and 26-years-old and are residents of Gothenburg.

Three of the men are born in Africa and the fourth in the Middle East, it said. The man born in the Middle East and two of the Africa-born men are Swedish citizens while another holds a Swedish residency permit, it added.

Swedish intelligence agency Säpo issued a short statement on Monday saying all information concerning the ongoing investigation was classified.

“Säpo’s assessment is that there is no cause for widespread concern nor any reason to introduce tighter security measures,” it said.

An elite counter-terrorism unit and police arrested four people in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city, and evacuated hundreds of people from a building in the city hosting an art fair “after concluding that there was a threat that could endanger lives or health or cause serious damage,” officials said Sunday.

Police then searched the building thoroughly, breaking open seven lockers, the paper said.

It is not known why the venue was seen as a target, and art fair organisers have not been given an explanation, GT said.

The paper speculated that a Swedish artist who has received death threats from al-Shabaab for depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog had planned to attend the event but did not in the end.

“I will myself with great interest attend the event,” Vilks wrote on his blog last week.

In an interview with the local Göteborgs-Posten daily he explained that he never intended to attend Saturday’s inauguration, but didn’t rule out that he was perhaps the intended target.

“If it is Islamists, which it seems to be, nothing is impossible,” he said.

Lars Vilks has faced numerous death threats and a suspected assassination plot since his drawing of the Muslim prophet with the body of a dog was first published by a Swedish regional newspaper in 2007, illustrating an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

Gothenburg city officials and others have criticised Säpo for neglecting to inform the city about the planned raid, and for being so tight-lipped following the arrests.

“We would have liked to have gotten the information directly from Säpo, and not through the media,” city director Åke Jacobsson told the TT news agency.

Officials from Gothenburg and Säpo met on Monday morning to discuss the threats and ensuing arrests.

But Säpo was still refusing to offer any further details other than that four people were arrested in Gothenburg on Saturday evening.

“I can’t go into any other details because of the confidentiality of the preliminary investigation,” Säpo spokesperson Michael Gunnarsson told TT.

Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström also refused to shed any light on the case.

Wilhelm Agrell, a professor on intelligence analysis, also made note of what he called a “total [media] blackout” on the part of Säpo regarding the case.

“Even if we’ve had blackouts in other terrorist cases, this one seems to go very far,” he said.

“Terror investigations can be very sensitive. You want to avoid every detail that can have a negative effect on the investigation and it can be hard to know ahead of time what sort of information has that character,” Agrell told TT.

Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda-linked militia has waged a years-long insurgency against Somalia’s weak, western-backed transitional government and controls much of the south and centre of the Horn of Africa country.

“Wherever you are, if not today or tomorrow, know that we haven’t yet forgotten about you,” a Swedish al-Shabaabmember, Abu Zaid, said in a video, according to US monitoring group SITE.

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How jellyfish in Gothenburg’s archipelago reveal impact of climate change

A global increase in jellyfish sparked by climate change is impacting communities in the Gothenburg archipelago, with local restaurants and fishing reporting the effects.

How jellyfish in Gothenburg's archipelago reveal impact of climate change

Jellyfish numbers are rising globally because of climate change and human impact on the marine environment, with the worrying trend set to continue.

Researchers report an increase in comb jellies in Swedish waters along with the 2018 arrival of an “alien species” called the clinging jellyfish, which delivers a painful sting.

But they warn there is not enough research to understand the full extent of their impact and further consequences at a local level.

To uncover the extent of the increased amount of jellyfish in the local environment, the writers of this article headed to Vrångö island with Björn Källström, a marine biologist at the University of Gothenburg. We didn’t have to search for long: jellyfish are visible both in the water and on land.

Marine biologist Björn Källström reports that human activity is responsible for the rise in jellyfish. Photo: Peter Seenan

When our team captured an American comb jellyfish, Källström commented: “This is an invasive alien species, which arrived in Swedish waters in 2006. In summer, people in Sweden report thousands of them.”

Aside from reducing the amount of fish in the sea, jellyfish clog nets.

“When fishing mackerel, we can’t catch anything,” Andreas Olsson Wijk, a local fisherman, said. “[The jellyfish] fill the net and it’s impossible to get anything into the boat.”

Fisherman and restaurateur Andreas Olsson Wijk says jellyfish prevent the catching of mackerel. Photo: Peter Seenan

According to Håkan Karlsten, a local hotel owner who has lived on the island permanently since 1991, “small fishing boats have problems because they are not strong enough to take anything. They don’t have tools to take them out, or strong motors to counteract the weight of the jellyfish in the nets.”

Professor Lena Granhag, lecturer of Maritime Studies at Chalmers University, explained that the warming of sea waters, caused by climate change, leads to the presence of the American comb jellyfish in Sweden and the Baltic Sea.

Excessive levels of nutrients in the water, called eutrophication, also contribute to the growth of the jellyfish population. The main nutrients involved in this process are nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be found in farming pesticides and fertilisers.

“More nutrients will lead to more blooms,” she said. “When there are lots of nutrients, algae will bloom. Jellyfish can eat the algae directly, but they actually capture zooplankton – or small shrimp – that in turn have algae on them.”

Källström explained how direct human action is also relevant. Ships can be responsible for introducing other invasive species, like the clinging jellyfish, which “came in 2018 with a big cargo ship to Swedish waters and managed to survive”.

Overfishing is also “a factor leading to more jellyfish”, he added, since fish are one of their main predators.

A jellyfish, or ‘manet’ as they are called in Swedish. Photo: Peter Seenan

Increasing jellyfish are a global trend. Along the coast of Haifa in Israel, jellyfish cause a lot of damage every year, with this increasing in the last few years. The Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences in Israel points to climate change as a cause, with overfishing and the farming sector part of the reason behind the altered ecosystem.

Jellyfish blooms can also pose practical challenges, such as clogging the cooling water streams of nuclear power plants. Reactors at Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant were clogged in 2005 and 2013. It happens regularly at Japan’s nuclear power plants during the summer in a tsunami-stressed energy sector. Nuclear power plants in Scotland face a similar challenge. 

“The problem in Sweden and in many other places is that we don’t have any long-term series of measurements of monitoring jellyfish. It’s actually quite difficult to say for any place in Sweden or many places in the world that jellyfish are in fact increasing. However, there are several signs of increase,” Källström said.

Jellyfish at Vrångö where locals say they are causing problems for fishing. Photo: Peter Seenan

A deeper understanding for the increase of jellyfish and their link with climate change depends on greater economic investment in the collection of data and marine research.

Initiatives on crowd-sourced data, such as the reports by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, are one solution to the lack of research about jellyfish numbers and its relation to climate change. “This is citizen science, people are helping scientists,” Källström said. 

Global trends suggest the impact of jellyfish goes beyond stung tourists and clogged nuclear power plants, to affecting local economies, marine ecosystems and local food production – an unsettling indicator of human action and its consequences for our climate that local actors and the international community fail to address.

Article by Gothenburg University students Sandra Daniel, Mireia Jimenez Barcelo, Javad Maleki, Peter Seenan and Marina Panicheva