Sweden: Jihadi recruitment attempts

Sweden: Jihadi recruitment attempts

A concerned immigrant father in Halmstad (Sweden) turned to the police after Muslim militants tried to recruit his teenage son.

"It's good when parents sound the alarm.  The number of Swedes who go abroad to participate in violent operations is increasing," says Malena Rembe from Säpo (Swedish security service).

Already last fall, people from Islamist groups which accept violence visited Anderberg in Halmstad.  According to what HP learned, they tried to convince a young man to hand out materials about such activities, but the person in question refused.

This winter the contact attempts continued and culminated in February when two men, one from Morocco and one from Afghanistan, looked up an immigrant boy in his late teens in Andersberg.

When the boy's father heard what was going one, he feared the worst.  He was afraid his son would participate in terror activity abroad and will eventually become a suicide bomber.

Since the father fled to Sweden due to his opposition to violence and extremism he was frustrated and notified the police.  He was extra upset that those who first contacted his son weren't honest, but first discussed questions of faith - before they later started to talk about violent actions.

The police in Halmstad made sure that Säpo got involved.  But it's unknown what happened afterward.

Malena Rembe, chief analyst at Säpo's counter-terrorism unit, explains that she can never comment on specific cases.  But, she says, it's clear that parents who are afraid their children are exposed to such pressures have legitimate concerns.

"We see that the flow of Swedish youth who travel abroad to participate in training camps or direct violent actions is increasing,"

She didn't want to go into exact numbers, but said that there are too many for them to feel comfortable.  Several years ago most went to Iraq, but now Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan are most common.

Malena Rembe points partially to the risks that people who go away will die, and partially that it's bad for Sweden's reputation that Swedish citizens participate in terror acts.

She mentions the example of a Swedish who was killed by American forces in Iraq when he, according to the USA, was about to trigger a suicide bomb.

She also sees a danger that those who have been abroad come back to Sweden with some form of 'hero status' in certain circles.

She says that in the current situation there is no threat of attack against Sweden, but if the situation changes, these individuals will accelerate the radicalization and perform any eventual act.

When Säpo gets tips regarding a suspected travel abroad, the police tries to convince the person not to go.

"Some individuals took our advice, but most went anyway."

Malena Rembe is at the same time careful not to scare people unnecessarily.  She says it involves a small minority.  Youth of immigrant background have to go abroad to visit relatives or go to language schools - but in some case it can be a gateway to terror acts.

Security expert Magnus Ranstorp is surprised Muslim extremists tried to recruit in Hamstad.  He says it's easier to keep something like that secret in bigger cities like Stockholm, Gutenberg and Malmö.

To make contact in a little city like Halmstad involves taking a risk it will spread faster than in anonymous big city, says Magnus Ranstorp, who is the head researcher at the Center for Asymmetric Threats and Terrorism Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

He is not familiar with the concrete recruiting attempt in Halmstad but says that Muslim extremist organizations are interested in people with an EU passport.  In particular North-European passports are attractive.  A person with such a passport can travel in a completely different manner than others.  He explains that a person who has lived in Sweden for a while and has good English can easily melt into different contexts without the police or security guards reacting.

These groups follow a certain pattern when making contacts.  In the beginning they don't say what it's about.  They try to just sort out what benefits they can get from the people and how easily manipulated they are.   In the next stage they cause a moral shock by, for example, showing films on how Muslims are subjected to the West's war.  Then they show that it's possible to do something about it.

He says that it's not all about violence.  It can involve financing or spreading a political message.  The most extreme form is to people who go to language camp and then never return.

Sources: Hallandsposten 1, 2 (Swedish), h/t Politiskt Inkorrect

See also:
* Sweden: Fears of becoming a terrorist base
* Sweden: Swedish Muslims getting al-Qaeda training

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