Terrorism For Members

What you need to know about Sweden's terror threat

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
What you need to know about Sweden's terror threat
File photo of the offices of the Swedish security services in Solna. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Sweden's National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT) raised the country's threat level from a 3, 'elevated threat', to a 4, 'high threat', at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. Here's what we know about Sweden's terror threat.


What level is Sweden's terror threat according to Swedish authorities?

Sweden's National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT) raised the country's threat level to a 4, "high threat", the second-highest level on a 5-point scale, at a press conference on Thursday August 17th.

A level 4 means that there is a high chance that actors have both the intent and capability to carry out an attack.

Sweden's terror threat level has been at a level 3, "elevated threat", since 2010, with the exception of a period in 2015 when it was temporarily raised to four.

This raising of the terror threat level doesn't come as a surprise, as Sweden's national security advisor, Henrik Landerholm, said in a statement earlier this week that "the security situation has deteriorated and Sweden has gone from being a legitimate to a priority target."

Landerholm also suggested that controversy surrounding the Quran burnings "indicate that the threat to Swedish interests abroad has increased. Representatives of terrorist groups have called for attacks against Sweden. States, but also other actors, have contributed to fueling such messages."

Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer also told SVT news on August 14th that Sweden's terror level was "within the boundaries of a 'three' and approaching a 'four'", but said at that time that security services did not believe that the threat should be raised.

What are others saying?

The US Embassy warned in February this year that its citizens should "use caution" when visiting public venues frequented by large numbers of people, diplomatic facilities, and other areas where people gather, such as places of worship.

It also advised Americans in Sweden to avoid crowds, keep a low profile and report any suspicious activity to Swedish police.

In a separate statement at the end of July, the US State Department warned that attacks could occur in "tourist locations, transport hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas."

The UK warned on its website that terrorists are "very likely to try and carry out attacks in Sweden."

"Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners," the statement reads.


Does that mean I should cancel my trip if I'm planning a visit to Sweden?

Neither country specifically advises against visiting Sweden - so your travel insurance should still be valid if you do decide to travel - although the US does urge travellers to exercise increased caution due to the risk of an attack.

Swedish police describe the risk of individuals being caught up in terrorist attacks as "very low", but ultimately cancelling a trip is a personal decision and a lot will depend on your circumstances and your reasons for travelling to Sweden. 

Sweden is a big place, and there's no doubt that the terror threat is larger in the bigger cities than in more rural areas.

If you feel uncomfortable around large crowds or tourist attractions, you may want to plan your trip to avoid these, or decide to visit a different part of Sweden entirely.

What have Swedish authorities done to lower the risk?

"During the summer we have undertaken a number of measures," Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told SVT, including tasking the security services, along with 14 other authorities, with "intensifying their work" to prevent terrorism.

"We have tasked the police with intensifying their work on border control to better keep track of who is entering Sweden," he added.


What should I take into consideration if I'm in Sweden?

Swedish police advise that you be aware of what's going on around you, with a press spokesperson telling Sveriges Radio that visitors to Stockholm's Kulturfestival this week should "perhaps take out their headphones", adding that the police encourages visitors to employ a "normal level of attentiveness" when visiting the festival.

In a video from 2018, the police recommend that, in general, you should make a habit of locating emergency exits when in crowded areas, and that you should be prepared for the unlikely event that you might be affected by a terror attack.

This includes, for example, putting your phone on silent if something happens, avoiding any unnecessary calls to people who may be present in the danger zone, and calling the emergency services on 112 if you witness an attack, providing as much information as possible.

You should also not be afraid of reporting anything you see which you think is suspicious. In an emergency situation you can call 112, and if the situation is less pressing you can call the police's tips line on 114 14, stating "tips" when prompted.

You can also report suspicious activity to the security services on 010-568 70 00. Again, in an emergency situation, or if you believe an attack is imminent, call 112.


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