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Democracy minister to answer questions on IS returnees

Published tisdag 14 mars kl 16.59
Bah Kuhnke: I should have been clearer
(3:49 min)
Alice Bah Kuhnke, the minister for culture and for democracy, of the Green Party.
Alice Bah Kuhnke, Sweden's minister for culture and democracy, faced criticism after a TV appearance on Sunday. Credit: Cecilia Gustafsson/Sveriges Radio

Sweden's democracy minister has been called to appear before parliament's constitutional committee to explain comments she made on a Sunday TV news programme about Swedish IS returnees.

Alice Bah Kuhnke faced criticism for putting the responsibility of handling returning jihadists on Sweden’s municipalities. She highlighted the northern town of Umeå as an example of a council that had handled returning IS fighters. However, it later emerged that no one has returned to Umeå after fighting for IS in Iraq or Syria.

Bah Kuhnke also claimed that between 10 and 30 of the estimated 150 people who have returned from fighting with terror groups abroad have been met with individual action plans - figures that terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp disputes.

Bah Kuhnke faced scathing criticism from the opposition, with Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund saying her TV appearance was “painful to watch”. The minister herself told news agency TT that she should have been clearer when speaking on the Agenda television programme on Sunday evening. She said: "I would be happy to face the constitutional committee to answer questions and clarify any ambiguities.”

Bah Kuhnke has a double portfolio, as minister for culture and democracy and, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said “it is not certain” that the responsibility for handling IS returnees should lie within the Ministry for Culture.

“The issue of returnees from the terror group IS is a national responsibility and affects citizens' security, Löfven told TT. "When we took on the national strategy against terrorism, we began a review of these issues of where they really belong. There are many agencies and departments that need to be involved."

Löfven suggested that the minister for justice and other cabinet ministers must be involved. He also said that Bah Kuhnke’s comments on Sunday were not good. "I trust Alice Bah Kuhnke but she herself has expressed that what she said in this interview was wrong, it was not good. The important thing is what the government does."

The chairman of the constitutional committee, Andreas Norlén, told TT: "The Swedish Security Service (Säpo) has said that violent Islamism is the biggest terrorist threat to Sweden, and in particular regarding the threat of returning IS-fighters. And so it is very important that the responsible minister takes the issue seriously and is well prepared."

Säpo estimates that at least 300 Swedish nationals have gone to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq.

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