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'Thousands' of violent Islamists in Sweden: security police

From the Swedish edition of The Local

The number of militant extremists living in Sweden has soared from a couple of hundreds a few years ago to thousands today, the security police Säpo believes.

"We have never seen anything like it before," said Säpo chief Anders Thornberg in an interview with Swedish news agency TT.

The vast majority of the extremists support violent Islamist ideologies, according to Säpo, whose security experts in a report in 2010 estimated that there were around 200 such sympathizers in Sweden.

"We would say that it has gone from hundreds to thousands now," said Thornberg.

However, he stressed that the security service believes few of them have the ability to, or even intend to, carry out a terror attack in Sweden.

Thornberg described the situation as serious. "This is the 'new normal' … It is an historic challenge that extremist circles are growing," he said. Has he been listening to Sadiq Khan? Terror attacks are part and parcel of living in a big city?

He attributed the rise primarily to the propaganda machine of Isis, also known as the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh, which has united different groups of Islamist extremists. "We used to have different circles. We had radicalized people from North Africa, the Middle East and Somalia, but they were all separate," he said.

Terror expert Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish Defence University told The Local the new figures were expected. "Those of us working in the field of counter-terrorism are not surprised, it has been in the making for some time, it didn't just appear. When IS declared the caliphate, that was the genie out of the bottle," he said.

"It is a development we're seeing in general, of course it's worse in bigger countries. In the UK there are 23,000 extremists, in Belgium there are 18,000, in France 17,000. Not everyone is equally dangerous, but it only takes a small number of people."

A (third) reason is segregation in Sweden's so-called vulnerable areas, districts with often high poverty and crime rates and a higher prevalence of religious extremism.

 



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