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'32 Swedes dead fighting for Isis in Syria and Iraq'

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'32 Swedes dead fighting for Isis in Syria and Iraq'
Devastation caused by the conflict in the city of Kobani, Syria. Photo: AP Photo
07:47 CET+01:00
Sweden's Security Service, Säpo, has confirmed that 32 Swedes have been killed fighting for the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria and Iraq.

Asked by local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, press officer Sirpa Franzén said that the information had been sourced from, among others, relatives of the dead, social media and foreign security agencies.

“But we can never receive officially confirmed information from a conflict zone such as this. It is near impossible right now and it is possible that it will never be fully confirmed,” she told Swedish news agency TT.

The comments come a week after The Local reported a Swedish man from the town of Örebro was said to be among the dead.

In total around 130 Swedes have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Isis since summer 2012, but it has been reported the number could be as high as 300. All dead are men.

A Swedish-Norwegian islamist convert appeared in an online video last week calling on other Scandinavians to travel to Syria to join the terror group. Wearing desert camouflage and clutching an assault rifle, Michael Nikolai Skråmo, who also calls himself Abo Ibrahim Al Swedi, says in the video: "Do you not wish in in your heart to fight and show God what you have to offer him? The door to jihad is standing there waiting for you. It's the fastest way to Jannah [Paradise]."

DEBATE: "Syria is the biggest threat to Sweden since the Second World War"

Swedish domestic affairs minister Angers Ygeman said he hoped to present a new national strategy on terrorism by summer.

“This is a relatively new phenomenon, and one that is developing. We need to take a closer look at the tool box that the police and security police use to keep track of who leaves the country and those who survive and return home,” he told TT.

Franzén said Säpo welcomed all initiatives to stop the problem.

“Although we would rather deal with the radicalization to stop it from arising at all,” she said.

Mona Sahlin, national coordinator against violent extremism and former leader of the Swedish centre-left Social Democrat party, is to be given increased resources and an expanded mandate to look at preventative strategies, TT reported on Wednesday.

The Swedish government is currently drafting a bill to criminalize Swedes who participate in training with or fight for groups classified as terror organizations by the UN and is set to present the result in June. The EU coordinator for anti-terrorism, Gilles de Kerchove, estimated at the end of last year that 3,000 Europeans have joined the ultra-hardline Isis group, which has caused global revulsion with its regular videotaped beheadings of hostages.

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