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Säpo: Sweden's election a target for extremists

Published torsdag 16 mars kl 14.26
Säpo's Anders Thornberg: We see a growing threat from right wing extremism
(8:31 min)
Säpo head Anders Thornberg at Thursday's press conference.
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Säpo head Anders Thornberg at Thursday's press conference. Credit: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Sweden's security outlook in 2016 was presented by Säpo on Thursday. Credit: Radio Sweden
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Sweden's security outlook in 2016 was presented by Säpo on Thursday. Credit: Radio Sweden

Sweden's security service Säpo plans to boost security around politicians during the 2018 election following the murder of British MP Jo Cox, the agency's head has told Radio Sweden.

In its annual security report, the agency said that the threats Sweden faces today are very different from what they were only a few years ago, changing both how the it works and what its priorities are.

Pointing to the murder of UK MP Jo Cox and the "aggressive tone" during both the Brexit vote and the US election, Anders Thornberg, the head of Säpo, said he would step up security for politicians ahead of next year's Swedish election.

"We are looking all over the world, we have just seen an election in the US, and we are preparing and putting up an organisation to have the best possible security for the upcoming election in Sweden," he told Radio Sweden after the report's publication. 

With right-wing extremism on the rise over 2016, the said that the 2018 Swedish election was also a major security concern.

"We can see that the threat from right wing extremism is growing. We have for example an ongoing investigation in Gothenburg over suspected bomb attacks planned on political enemies and on refugee camps," he said. 

"We know from our knowledge and experience with elections that when we are getting closer to the election, there will be more political violence and threats from left-wing and right-wing extremists." 

The number of people leaving to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq decreased in 2016, due to coalition bombings and tightening border controls in Turkey.

However, with IS "grooming" potential recruits to carry out attacks in their own countries, Säpo said it had a tough job monitoring internet traffic and intercepting potential "lone wolf" attacks. 

Fredrik Hallström, the deputy head of Säpo's counter terrorist unit told Radio Sweden that the new threat was pushing the agency to the limit of its capabilities. 

"It's a real challenge with technology and our ability to follow those lines with Swedish law. It's hard to find the lone wolf. It is difficult to draw up a profile of these people," he said. 

The agency also revealed that it had investigated several suspected spies working within Swedish agencies that are crucial to the country's security.

"When you see a world which is not so safe the intelligence service has more work to do and we can see that there is bigger interest from foreign intelligence services to penetrate and find secret information in our country," said Anders Thornberg.

Säpo carried out an inventory of IT security at numerous agencies and oragnisations last year and found security lacking at several places, with outsourcing a particular problem. 

Last year Säpo recruited 200 extra officers to bolster its force and aims to have 1,500 officers by 2020.

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