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    Impossible-to-Predict 'Lone Wolf' Attacks Remain Main Threat to Sweden

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    Terrorism Threat in Europe (269)
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    No matter how much the Swedish authorities trumpet the threat of "Russian aggression," Islamist terrorism remains the country's greatest danger in 2017. Remarkably, though, random attacks by radical loners reportedly pose a greater threat than large-scale terrorism carried out by mainstream terrorist groups.

    According to the recent evaluation for 2017 by the Swedish National Center for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT), the overall threat level will remain at three on a five-point scale, thus indicating an elevated risk. Sympathizers of violent Islamist extremism are still the main cause of the elevated threat, despite attempts by the —proclaimed "feminist" Swedish government to equate Islamism with far-right extremism.

    "It is the terrorist violence-promoting Islamism that accounts for the grade-three threat level," NCT director Mats Sandberg told Swedish Radio.

    According to Sandberg, "lone wolves" who remain unaffiliated with any major terrorist networks and have become radicalized on their own remain the main risk. Sandberg noted that the risk of coordinated attacks involving numerous participants like that in Paris remains much lower compared with solo action, Swedish Radio reported. Whereas Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) returnees and defectors are regarded as a high-risk group, the experience of 2016 showed that the majority of terrorist attacks were carried out by "freshmen" with no combat experience.

    According to NCT, "jihadi tourism" to Syria and Iraq declined in 2016. Notably, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as the al-Nusra front) received more fresh supporters, which is a sign that Daesh's appeal is dwindling.

    "Even if the temptation to join Daesh decreases, this does not mean that the overall magnetism to join this kind of groups is declining. Instead, people will be happy to join al-Qaeda structures that have existed for a long time. Previously, though, al-Qaeda had been a second pick, after Daesh," Mats Sandberg argued.

    Nevertheless, Daesh remains by far the biggest inspiration for Swedish extremists. The NCT assessment was also strengthened by the fact that the terrorists seem to have changed their tactics and instead of the heavy recruitment campaigns urge their sympathizers to commit attacks where they are.

    In 2010, the Swedish Security Police found that only "a relatively small number of people were involved in violent Islamist extremism" with no evidence that the number of people getting radicalized in Sweden is increasing. Apparently, that was then and this is now. In recent years, Sweden became, in terms of its population, one of Europe's top producers of jihadists, yielding over 300 "foreign warriors" in a nation of about 10 million.

    According to a leading article in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, newcomers to terrorism indeed have a greater chance of sailing past Security Police's radar than those who have traveled to the Middle East and fought for the so-called "caliphate."

    "Combatting terrorism is not made easier by Swedish legislation or the preventive work that was largely neglected for many years. Given this, Sweden is still probably something of a safe haven for jihadists and their sympathizers. It has already paid the price for denying and belittling that fact," Sydsvenskan wrote.

    The NCT has brought in leading analysts from the country's Security Police (SÄPO), the National Defense Radio Establishment (FRA), and Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST).

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    Terrorism Threat in Europe (269)

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    radical Islam, terrorism, Daesh, Scandinavia, Sweden
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