Country Report on Terrorism 2020 - Chapter 1 - Sweden


Overview: The National Center for Terrorist Threat Assessment gauged that the main threat to Sweden remained Islamist-motivated and right-wing extremist-motivated terrorism. The assessment noted that a small number of Islamist- or right-wing extremist-motivated individuals could develop both the intent and the capability to carry out terrorist attacks on targets on the homeland. The assessment further stated, “Sweden has seen a growth in violence-promoting Islamist circles for several years in a row.” The Swedish Security Service reported that violent right-wing extremism, which used to consist of a limited circle of organized white supremacists, has gained ground and attracted more supporters, and there was an increasing risk that people inspired by this ideology would carry out attacks or commit other violent crimes. At the end of 2020, the national alert level remained Level 3 (elevated threat, no evidence of planning) on a scale of 5 (attack imminent, evidence of planning).

The government continued efforts to strengthen its CT framework. Parliament enacted laws that criminalized collaboration with terrorist organizations and authorized law enforcement agencies to access encrypted data on computers and mobile devices.

Sweden is a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition. In addition to being a leader in humanitarian support to ISIS-affected communities, Sweden authorized deployment of up to 70 military instructors to Iraq in support of Defeat-ISIS efforts.

2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Sweden in 2020.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Swedish CT legislation evolved in recent years, partly in response to Swedish FTFs and a terrorist attack in central Stockholm in 2017. In March a new law authorized law enforcement agencies to install software and take other measures to allow them to access information on suspects’ electronic devices. In April a new law criminalized collaboration with terrorist organizations, including providing weapons, ammunition, flammable or explosive goods, means of transportation, facilities, or land to a terrorist organization. The law also criminalized certain actions related to recruiting for a terrorist organization, traveling abroad to have contact with a terrorist organization, and financing a terrorist organization. The law did not apply retroactively to the actions of those who traveled to Syria or Iraq to support and fight for ISIS before 2020.

The Swedish Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen) is responsible for proactively detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism, including recruitment and financing.

Sweden is party to the EU’s identity verification and border management tools such as the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System. The country collects and uses API and some PNR, and exchanges information with other member states on irregular immigration and border control. Sweden used the “serious threat to public policy or internal security” justification permitted under the Schengen Border Code to unilaterally prolong the temporary border controls first introduced in 2015 in response to the influx of asylum seekers until 2021.

According to the Säkerhetspolisen, about half of the 300 or so people who left Sweden to join ISIS have returned. In November a woman was arrested upon her return on charges of “gross arbitrary conduct concerning a child,” related to taking her 2-year old child with her when she allegedly went to join ISIS in Syria. Around 40 criminal investigations of alleged FTFs were ongoing. A Center Against Violent Extremism survey showed that about one fourth of Sweden’s 290 municipalities had plans for handling returning FTFs.

Using a new law against training for terrorism, a man in Västerås was prosecuted for training himself to commit acts of terrorism. He was in possession of ISIS propaganda and instructions for bomb making and executions. The trial court acquitted the man in July, saying it was not proven that he had the intent to commit terrorist crimes. The prosecutor appealed the case.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Sweden is a member of FATF. Its FIU, the National Financial Intelligence Service, is a member of the Egmont Group. There have been no significant changes since 2019. The Säkerhetspolisen reported, “[E]fforts must also be made to counter the institutionalization that has taken place within violent extremist circles, where radicalization to violence, recruitment, and financing may now be carried out [by] companies, foundations, and associations with a turnover of hundreds of millions of Swedish kronor [tens of millions in U.S. dollars].”

Countering Violent Extremism: The National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism promoted and coordinated preventive efforts against violent extremism at the national, regional, and local level. The center supported municipalities, government agencies, and others in preventing violent extremism. Malmö and Stockholm are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation: Sweden is a member of the EU and supports CT efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the European Commission’s Radicalization Awareness Network, the EU-9 (focusing on FTFs), the Counter-Terrorism Group (30 European countries), the Police Working Group on Terrorism, and EUROPOL.

Sweden funded international CT capacity-building projects through development assistance from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (or SIDA), funding to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime-Terrorism Prevention Branch, and funding to the OSCE. Sweden provided an armed force of 220 troops to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and extended the mission through 2021. The nation participated in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, providing up to 50 service members, and extended the mission through 2021. Sweden was a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition and made humanitarian contributions to ISIS-affected populations in Iraq, in addition to development aid funding to Iraq ($105 million for 2017-21). Sweden extended its deployment of up to 70 military instructors in Iraq in support of Defeat-ISIS efforts through 2021. Sweden contributed humanitarian support to Syria ($54 million for 2020). Since 2016, Sweden also has implemented a regional crisis strategy for Syria ($190 million) that included resilience support for groups affected by ISIS.