Swedes joining rebels can ‘rarely be stopped’

A Säpo official has suggested Sweden is powerless to stop citizens from joining Islamist rebels in Syria even though there is a risk they will return to commit acts of terror in Sweden.

Swedes joining rebels can 'rarely be stopped'

At least 30 Swedish citizens have travelled to Syria to fight against Assad’s regime.

“We can rarely stop them,” Jonathan Peste, chief analyst at Swedish security service Säpo, told Sveriges Radio (SR) on Monday.

According to Peste, the Swedish citizens who have joined rebel forces in Syria are dangerous individuals.

“In Syria they are dangerous. Some have committed attacks against civilians,” he claimed.

“What we are concerned about is the experiences they receive over there. They increase their ability to commit acts of violence. Many return to Sweden and, according to al-Qaida’s ideology, Europe and even Sweden are legitimate targets,” said Peste.

He claimed that there are known examples of individuals who have planned to attack Sweden.

Among the Swedes who have gone to Syria, some, said Peste, “have been part of this violence-endorsing Islamist, or al-Qaida-inspired, environment for quite some time.”

Others are completely new to those environments and have gone to Syria after witnessing from afar the atrocities that are happening there.

“This isn’t actually anything new,” said Peste.

“We have seen others travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen for example. What’s worrying about Syria is that quite many have gone there, at least around 30.”

Asked whether Säpo stands a chance of stopping them from going, Peste said “very rarely”.

Explaining Säpo’s methods of preventing or delaying such journeys, Peste said:

“We look them up and try to talk to them. We tell them it is dangerous to go and that we cannot help them if someone catches them. But then they don’t have to meet with us if they don’t want to.”

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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”.