Attacks in Brussels: why is Sweden the target of terrorist threats?

Targeted because he is Swedish

Attacks in Brussels: why is Sweden the target of terrorist threats?

Targeted because he is Swedish. Two football fans, a Swede and a person with dual Swiss and Swedish nationality, were killed in an attack by a man on the sidelines of the Belgium-Sweden football match on the evening of Monday October 16 in Brussels . “The Swedish nationality of the victims is mentioned as a probable motivation for the act,” said a spokesperson for the Belgian federal prosecutor's office on Tuesday, after viewing a video protest posted online by the attacker, who said he was inspired by the Islamic State (IS). Sweden is “more threatened than ever,” Ulf Kristersson, the country’s Prime Minister, said Tuesday morning.

For several months, Sweden has been the target of repeated threats against it by Islamist terrorist organizations, due to several burnings of the Koran which took place on its soil, during gatherings authorized by the police. A copy of the Koran was notably burned during a rally organized in January in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, leading, at the beginning of April, to the arrest of five people suspected of preparing a “terrorist act” in retaliation.

Other book burnings followed, one at the end of June in front of the largest mosque in the capital, then a month later, in front of the Swedish Parliament. The latest burning took place at the beginning of September in Malmö, in the south of the country, leading to new scenes of violence and several arrests.

Raising the terrorist alert level in August

These destructions by fire of the sacred text of Islam, considered by believers as desecration, provoked this summer a series of indignations from Muslim countries, then demonstrations and violence targeting Swedish diplomatic representations, including the fire from the Swedish embassy in Iraq at the end of July.

Several Islamist terrorist organizations have made targeted threats against Sweden as a result. During the summer, the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda notably urged Muslims “in Sweden, Denmark [where the Koran was also burned] and throughout Europe” to exercise their “duty of revenge” against the two kingdoms. Scandinavians, described as “despicable little countries”. The leader of Lebanese Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, also called for “punishment” of the perpetrators of the Koran burnings, while on September 14, the branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) threatened to strike “a ministry.” in Paris and “a Swedish embassy.”

Faced with these threats, Stockholm raised its terrorist alert threshold by one notch on August 17, from 3 to 4 (on a scale that includes five levels), for the first time since 2016. The security service Swedish security believes that the threat of attacks “will persist for a long time”. “Sweden is not only mentioned as part of the Western world, but it is also designated much more clearly in exhortations and propaganda,” explained Ahn-Za Hagström, head of the National Center for Evaluation of terrorist threat, to the World. Ulf Kristersson judged the situation “serious” and revealed that plans for an attack “had been foiled” in Sweden, without going into details.

If the raising of the alert level only concerns the Swedish national territory, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tobias Billström, stressed that the threats against Sweden's interests abroad had intensified, and called on his compatriots and “foreign companies associated with Sweden [to] exercise increased vigilance and caution.”

Sweden's security service announced on Tuesday that the threat level against the country remained unchanged following the attack in Brussels against its nationals. “This is a serious situation and police assess that it will remain serious for a long time,” he added in a statement.