One of the suspects, who is thought to have recruited individuals to commit terrorist crimes, was arrested in Örebro in central Sweden and is around 45 years old.
The second man was arrested in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, and is thought to have trained another person in producing explosives intended to be used in Syria, prosecutor Ronnie Jacobsson told Swedish Radio News.
Jacobsson added that there is no link between the two men or between the arrests in Örebro and Stockholm.
“There are links to mosques in the towns of Örebro and Eskilstuna that have functioned as some kind of gathering places and that have been used in order to reach out individuals who might be receptive to be recruited to travel to Syria and Iraq,” said Anders Kassman of the Swedish intelligence service Säpo.
However, Kassman said that other places, including local cafés, have also been used and he stressed that it is not the mosques themselves that have been involved in terrorist-related crimes. Instead, single individuals have used the mosques and other places to reach out to people who may be willing to join terrorist organisations, Kassman said.
According to the latest figures from Säpo, around 260 Swedes have joined various terrorist groups abroad in recent years. Monday’s arrest is the first of its kind in Sweden, conducted in accordance with a counter-terrorism law that came into force in 2010.
“Just the fact that this may get people to think twice about going abroad would make this operation worthwhile,” said Kassman.
At the same time, it is difficult to convict individuals suspected of terrorist crimes.
“There are strict evidence requirements when it comes to suspicions of such serious crimes. The cases we’ve had so far have been related to plotting and preparing terrorist crimes and it’s hard to prove a person’s intentions or preparations,” said Jacobsson, adding that it is too early to tell whether Monday’s arrests will lead to convictions.
Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish Defence Academy, told news agency TT that Sweden has never before seen arrests of individuals with suspected links to terrorist organisation IS. “This could be the starting signal for more offensive operations,” said Ranstorp, adding that Monday’s arrests could have a deterring affect.
Minister for Home Affairs Anders Ygeman told TT that he believes there will be more arrests in the future and that Swedish terrorists will “end up behind bars”. Ygeman said he looks forward to the presentation of an inquiry in two weeks’ time which will put forward proposed legal amendments regarding terrorist recruitment, plotting,financing and training.
“There are a number of gaps to be filled. For instance, today it is forbidden to offer terrorist training but not to accept it,” said Ygeman.