Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 - Sweden

The Government of Sweden placed a high priority on increasing international cooperation against terrorism. Swedish authorities considered the threat of terrorist attacks inside Sweden to be low, but they monitored a number of known terrorists and terrorist organizations within their borders, including al-Qa'ida (AQ), Al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Islam/Sunna, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Hizb Al-Tahrir, Hizballah, Islamic Jihad, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). These groups provided logistical and financial support to their respective organizations abroad.

The Government of Sweden did not provide safe haven to terrorists or terrorist organizations. Terrorist organizations exploited Sweden's considerable legal protections of personal freedoms and civil liberties to maintain a presence in the country, however. Sweden's political asylum policy attracted individuals from areas of conflict.

According to Swedish terrorism experts, members of terrorist groups, such as Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Sunna, and Hizballah, used funds earned in Sweden to finance terrorist activities elsewhere. In 2007, the Swedish government shut down the al-Aqsa Foundation in Malmo when it was suspected of facilitating such activity for Hizballah. On December 22, its deputy chairman, Khaled al-Yousef, was charged with financing terrorism in Israel; he has not been sentenced.

Swedish law does not provide the government independent national authority to freeze or seize assets, unless in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. However, once the EU takes action, the government can and does freeze assets of entities and persons listed on the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee list. This procedure is managed through the Sanctions Act (1995). Sweden can also take action against entities designated by the EU clearinghouse process, although Sweden has not yet proposed individuals or entities for inclusion on such lists.

Sweden played an active role in EU deliberations to develop legal instruments for the listing and de-listing of terrorist organizations and an appeals process after the freezing of financial assets. Without a designation by the UN or EU, Swedish authorities only have the right to seize assets once a criminal investigation has been initiated. Efforts to create a national authority and address existing shortcomings are underway.

Terrorism-related cases in Sweden included:

  • On May 8, Ahmad Hamad, a Swedish resident born in Iraq, was arrested and placed in detention by U.S. forces in Iraq. Hamad remained in detention.
  • In the spring, three Swedish residents of Somali origin were released from prison after being held for three months on suspicion of funneling funds to terrorist organizations in Somalia. (Three others were arrested in Norway.)
  • On October 5, Abu Qaswarah, a Swedish citizen, died in a firefight with Iraqi and U.S. forces in Iraq. He allegedly was the second in command of AQ and was the senior leader of AQ in northern Iraq. A Moroccan native, Qaswarah had historic ties to AQ in Iraq founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and senior AQ leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the Swedish Security Service, Qaswarah was known for his activities in violent Islamist circles in Sweden and was listed on the UN and EU terrorist lists in December 2006.
  • In 2005, the Swedish Court of Appeal found Ali Berzengi and Ferman Abdullah, Iraqi citizens with Swedish residency permits, guilty of financially supporting Ansar al-Sunna terrorist actions in Irbil, Iraq. They remained in custody awaiting a government decision on deportation.
  • On August 4, a Moroccan, Abderazzak Jabri, was extradited from Sweden to Morocco. He first arrived in Sweden via Spain in 2002 and applied for asylum. He moved into the mosque in Brandbergen, where he shared rooms with Abu Qaswarah (see above). The mosque was under surveillance by Swedish authorities, who in March 2004 arrested several suspects, including Jabri. Afterwards Jabri was seen as a "security threat," resulting in the rejection of his asylum case. Jabri disappeared but turned up in Vienna two years later (2006) with a fake passport and tickets to Syria. Jabri claimed he was on his way to Spain to apply for amnesty as an illegal immigrant. He was then held by Swedish authorities until his extradition to Morocco in August 2008.

The Swedish government also agreed to pay damages to two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed Alzery/al-Zari. The men claimed they had been deported by Sweden to Egypt, where they had been tortured. An asylum request to return to Sweden was subsequently denied by Swedish authorities; both men have appealed and remained in Egypt, where Agiza is incarcerated.

Through the European Common Foreign and Security Policy, Sweden continued to contribute to capacity-building projects in Morocco, Algeria, and Indonesia. Sweden participated in EUROPOL and EUROJUST, European law enforcement institutions that coordinated member states' counterterrorism cooperation and activities. Additionally, it participated in the Nordic Council of Ministers Regional Forum for Nordic Governmental Cooperation. Sweden contributed over USD 1,000,000 to the Terrorism Prevention Branch of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. In December, Sweden's Parliament voted to raise its troop contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from 350 to 500.

As a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Sweden continued to comply with requirements in the VWP law related to information sharing and other law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation. This cooperation was further enhanced by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.


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