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Suspected terror Swede charged in Thailand

A man carrying a Swedish passport who was arrested on terror suspicions in Thailand last week was indicted on Monday after leading police to a massive stash of bomb-making materials.

Suspected terror Swede charged in Thailand

The Swedish foreign ministry is still working to ascertain the identity of the man.

According to reports in the Swedish and international press, the man is 47-year-old Hussein Atris, a former Lebanese-born barber who lived for many years in western Sweden before moving back to Lebanon seven years ago.

Atris took Swedish citizenship after marrying a Swedish woman in 1996, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Atris , who has alleged ties to Hezbollah, was arrested in Thailand last week following a warning from United States about a threat against tourists in the kingdom.

According to the Swedish foreign ministry, he is the holder of a Swedish passport.

“A person with a Swedish passport has been arrested. We are trying to figure out who he is,” foreign ministry spokesman Andre Mkandawire told AFP on Saturday.

“We have received information to that effect but the embassy is trying to figure out if the information is correct,” he added.

Following a tip from Atris, Thai police on Monday morning carried out a raid at a warehouse where they discovered more than 4,000 kilogrammes of fertilizer and several litres of liquid ammonium nitrate at a warehouse, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported, citing Thai media reports.

Citing anonymous sources, the AP reported that Atris told police he had rented the warehouse last year along with three other accomplices.

Later on Monday, Atris was charged with illegal possession of explosives material, the AP reported.

According to his wife, Atris was in Thailand on business at the time of his arrest.

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung had told AFP by telephone Friday that the suspect detained on Thursday was from Lebanon.

“We already have one suspect in custody for interrogation at a government building in Bangkok. He is a Hezbollah from Lebanon,” he said.

A senior Thai intelligence officer who did not want to be named told AFP that the kingdom had been informed before the New Year by Israel of a possible threat.

Mkandawire said Swedish embassy officials were trying to work out the confusion.

“It could be that he has dual citizenship, or it may be that he is a Swede of foreign origin,” he explained.

Speaking with the Expressen newspaper, the wife of the 47-year-old terror suspect explained that, since moving back to Beruit, her husband had been trying to change careers from that of a barber to trading in “goods from Asia”.

“He’s travelled to Thailand several times previously and purchased goods which he then sold in Lebanon,” Rania Koubaisi, Atris’s wife, told the newspaper from her current home in Libya.

She denied suspicions that her husband was a terrorist.

“Why would he do something like this? I’m one hundred percent sure that this is a misunderstanding,” she told the newspaper.

As of Sunday, officials from the Swedish embassy had still not been able to meet with Atris, nor confirm his identity.

“The embassy in Bangkok has sent a request to the Thai foreign ministry asking for clarity in this person’s identity and nationality,” Mkandawire told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

A friend of Atris told Expressen the 47-year-old had returned to Sweden a few years ago to renew his Swedish passport and was surprised to hear that the amiable man who at one time ran a salon in Gothenburg was now suspected of involvement in a terrorist plot.

“I have no idea what he could have to do with this,” the friend told the newspaper.

“He had a lot of friends and was really friendly and nice. He stood up for all kinds of people.”

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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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