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Swedish spy chief warns of rise of Islamist threat

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s biggest security threat comes from around 200 Islamists in the country with the potential for involvement in militant attacks, including young people radicalized after joining the war in Syria, the state’s spy chief Anders Thornberg said.

“We are talking about a couple of hundred people that are supporting or are willing and capable to carry out terrorist attacks in Sweden or planning a terrorist attack in Sweden against targets in neighboring countries or other places in the world,” Thornberg told Reuters.

Thornberg, head of the SAPO security police, said there were more radicalized Swedes involved in Syria over the past two years than in the past 10 years of other insurgent campaigns.“It’s a huge threat.”

Several Western states have voiced concern about the risk from youths returning home trained for jihad after joining disparate rebel groups, which include foreign Al-Qaeda insurgents, in Syria.

In Norway Tuesday, three were people arrested suspected of aiding an Al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria, at least two of which are accused of having joined the militant group as foreign fighters, Norwegian police said.

The men, two of whom were born in the former Yugoslavia and another in Somalia, pose a threat to Norway and its allies, police said.

“There are reasonable grounds to suspect two of the persons charged of having participated as foreign fighters for The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria [ISIS] in Syria,” the Police Security Service said.

In London, meanwhile, two brothers pleaded guilty in a British court Tuesday to conspiring to attend a terror training camp in Syria. Mohommod Nawaz, 30, and Hamza Nawaz, 24, were arrested in September as they entered the southeast port of Dover. The men, from Stratford in east London, allegedly drove to France, then flew to Turkey before traveling over the border into Syria.

The threat of fighters returning from Syria is also a concern for Middle Eastern states. Moroccan authorities have arrested three militants accused of recruiting fighters and funding groups linked to Al-Qaeda in Syria, an Interior Ministry statement said Monday.

“Al-Qaeda continues to target Morocco, especially with Moroccan fighters that have received military training abroad and return to commit terrorist acts,” it said, emphasizing fears that veterans might carry out attacks.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 28, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Sweden's biggest security threat comes from around 200 Islamists in the country with the potential for involvement in militant attacks, including young people radicalized after joining the war in Syria, the state's spy chief Anders Thornberg said.

In Norway Tuesday, three were people arrested suspected of aiding an Al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria, at least two of which are accused of having joined the militant group as foreign fighters, Norwegian police said.

The threat of fighters returning from Syria is also a concern for Middle Eastern states. Moroccan authorities have arrested three militants accused of recruiting fighters and funding groups linked to Al-Qaeda in Syria, an Interior Ministry statement said Monday.


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