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Sweden must prioritize anti-terror efforts: police

Swedish police and security agencies want the government to ensure Sweden is ready for future terror attacks, emphasizing the need for simulation training and more special response officers.

Sweden must prioritize anti-terror efforts: police

The national police, the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen, NBI) and the intelligence service Säpo want top commanders to be educated in counter-terrorism, top-level representatives said at a press conference held on Monday.

National police chief Bengt Svenson called for more training exercises and said Swedish security agencies needed more well-equipped vehicles in order to respond quickly to specific scenarios.

”We need the government to make counter-terror efforts a very clear priority in the mandate they give us, which allows us to put our resources into that field,” Svenson said.

His NBI counterpart, Klas Friberg, took the opportunity to underscore the need for extensive training and more exercises, all overseen by a coordinating body.

“We suggest a tactical council at the national level that brings together experts from the police and from the intelligence service,” Friberg said.

He and his colleagues also called for better communications equipment as they presented an overview of how well they think Sweden would respond if a large-scale terror attack was to take place.

WATCH THE PRESS CONFERENCE (IN SWEDISH)

The report authors have studied both the terror attack on Utöya island in neighbouring Norway and the failed suicide bomb attempt during the Christmas shopping rush in Stockholm two years ago.

“In the middle of all this tragedy, we were handed fantastic material to learn from,” said intelligence service head Anders Thornberg.

He said that the overview had made his agency’s responsibilities in case of attack more clear.

“We intend to get better at sharing information in order to benefit our operative capacity,” he said.

The assembled security heads said Sweden may have reacted more effectively than their Norwegian colleagues did when the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik went on his rampage.

“There are a few differences, and one of them is that we have a national command unit,” police chief Bengt Svenson said.

“The main criticism of how Norwegian police responded is that the local police station in Utöya was issuing orders.”

He welcomed that the Swedish government is currently looking into whether the police can have access to military helicopters if needed.

There is also support from government level, with Justice Minister Beatrice Ask responding favourably to Svenson’s call for expanding the capacity of the national response team (nationella insatsstyrkan), the Swedish national equivalent of a US SWAT unit.

The aim would be to expand capacity so that the unit can respond at two locations at the same time, which Ask has said is needed following the Utöya massacre.

The NBI has proposed adding 49 staff to the 50-strong team at an estimated annual cost of 30 billion kronor ($4.7 billion).

TT/The Local/at

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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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