Sweden presents plan to combat extremism

The day before a massive right wing demonstration is set to take place in Sweden and two days before the anniversary of the Stockholm suicide bombing, the Swedish government on Friday presented their new plan to combat extremism.

Sweden presents plan to combat extremism

”It is very important that we take this problem seriously. Every individual who ends up in violent extremism is one too many,” minster for democracy, Birgitta Ohlsson told news agency TT after a press conference on Friday.

Between 2012 and 2014 the government is aiming to spend 62 million kronor ($9.2 million) in combating extremism, concentrating on increasing the knowledge of what types of extremism tends to lead to violence.

The work on the action plan has been going on for three years and is a joint effort between security service Säpo, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå), the National Defence College (Försvarshögskolan), the National Board of Youth Affairs (Ungdomsstyrelsen), and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR).

According to Ohlsson, Taimour Abdulwahab’s attempt to blow himself up on a Stockholm street last year has showed Swedes how vulnerable the country’s open society is.

She also mentioned the tragedy in Norway caused by Anders Behring Breivik, the Gothenburg riots of 2001, and the police murders in Malexander in 1999.

“Säpo says that there are too few of these individuals for these groups to constitute a serious threat to democracy, but we must keep a watchful eye. We should neither overestimate or underestimate them,” Ohlsson said.

The three extremist environments on which the plan’s efforts will be concentrated are the white power movement, the autonomous left, and violent Islamism.

“We have a few hundred individuals, part of autonomous groups, white-power movements or Islamists that we need to take very seriously,” Ohlsson said.

However, Ohlsson did not want to single out one group as more dangerous than another.

“We have had reports done on these three groups and that’s the material this plan is based on,“ Ohslsson said.

According to Ohlsson, it is the prevention of extremism which is central in the plan, to work with schools, to educate teachers and key groups in civil society.

The government also wants to strengthen international cooperation and create a better support network for those who wish to leave extremist groups.

“Today we have a good programme for ex-right wing extremist, but not when it comes to other groups,” Ohlsson told TT.

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Swedish extremism hotline prepares to open

A Swedish helpline for families worried that a loved one may be on the path to radicalization will open on November 16th, said the Red Cross.

Swedish extremism hotline prepares to open
An extremism helpline is being set up in Sweden. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The Swedish Red Cross confirmed on Wednesday that it would set up a national hotline for extremism, which The Local wrote about earlier this year.

The announcement comes barely a week after two people were killed in a racially-motivated attack on a school in Trollhättan that shocked the nation.

“We are launching this hotline at the request of the National Coordinator Against Extremism. We want to help the families, the friends of people tempted by radical extremism,” Swedish Red Cross president Anna Carlstedt told the AFP news agency.

The aim of the hotline is not to identify potential extremists, whether they are sympathizers of radical Islam, the extreme left or the hard-right, but to offer support to “all those who suspect a loved one is being radicalized,” Carlstedt added.

Several other countries, including France and Britain, have set up similar free phone numbers to address concerns about radicalization.

Sweden is still reeling from the attack in the western town of Trollhättan last Thursday, in which a teaching assistant and a pupil were killed by a sword-wielding attacker with apparent far-right, anti-immigrant sympathies.

And Swedish security police Säpo reported earlier this month that 125 Swedes are currently believed to be fighting for terror groups such as the Islamic State (also known as Isis or IS) in Syria and Iraq.

READ ALSO: Pregnant Swedish teen freed from Isis captivity