Leif R Jansson / TT
Anders Thornberg, Director-General and Head of the Swedish Security Service (Säpo). Photo: Leif R Jansson / TT.

Security Chief: 125 Swedes support terror groups

At present 125 Swedish citizens are in Iraq and Syria in order to fight for terror groups, according to information from the Swedish Security Service (Säpo).

Anders Thornberg Director-General and Head of Säpo told the television news service TV4 that "we're facing a historic challenge." Of that group of fighters, 90 are men and 35 are women. The security service, which is charged with counter-terrorism efforts, knows of 40 citizens who have died in battle so far, all young men, but Thornberg said the number may be higher.

"The men are there to fight, but they're also there with their families to establish a country, a caliphate," said Thornberg referring specifically to the IS jihadists based in Northern Iraq and Syria. "The women give logistical support and have children. We haven't seen women who are fighting yet, but we wouldn't rule out that we might see that in the future."

There are 115 Swedes who have returned home and who have been identified by Säpo. While recruitment in the country has increased, fewer Swedes are returning home from the region. According to Thornberg, that may have to do with the fact that they are not allowed to return.

"We don't believe there are 115 potential terrorist coming home. But those who do return have a bit of a rock-star status and can become role models for other young people. Our aim is to identify them and evaluate them. If there are one or two who are terrorists, then we need to take action," said Thornberg.

He said that proposed legislation against terrorist travel can make it more difficult for the security service to gather information. He did, however, welcome legal reforms to help track or prevent when Swedish citizens travel to participate in terror groups.

"One disadvantage is that we are not allowed to use the National Defence Radio Establishment," said Thornberg referring to the Ministry of Defence agency that monitors electronic signals. "We use it to gather intelligence abroad. This is partly why we have such a good eye on what they do and when they come home, he said to TV4.

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