As many as 41 Daesh terrorists linked to Sweden through either Swedish citizenship or residence permits in the Nordic country have been detained in Syria by Kurdish forces, the Swedish daily newspaper Expressen reported, describing the prisoners as the most hardened of their kind.
Five of those detained are reported to have held key positions within Daesh, with one permanently responsible for providing propaganda support for the terrorist movement.
"We treat them as prisoners, despite them being terrorists who have murdered innocent people," a Kurdish source told Expressen.
The capture triggered a hot debate on whether Sweden should take back the terrorists and put them on trial "at home."
During her recent visit to Stockholm, Nasrin Abdullah, the commander of YPJ, the female branch of the Kurdish YPG forces, appealed to Sweden to shoulder responsibility in bringing home its citizens and imprison them for the crimes they committed. She has also stressed the need for an ongoing dialogue between the Kurdish forces and the Swedish authorities.
"The problem is that nobody wants these prisoners. In Swedish prisons, they will continue to spread their propaganda. These are key people, who are as deadly as ticking bombs," a source with links to the Kurdish forces told Expressen. "After all, it's not our job to take care of them. There are states that possess the resources to bring them to justice. Also, the prisoners may be sitting on information that I suppose should be of interest to them," the source said.
Senior terrorist researcher Magnus Ranstorp of the National Defense College confirmed that the recent "crop" of detained terrorists belongs to the most dangerous of the approximately 300 people who have left Sweden for the sake of joining various militant groups in the Middle East. Ranstorp stressed that many countries are unwilling to take responsibility for the "home-grown" jihadists' crimes in the Middle East, leaving them in a sort of a legal limbo. At the same time, Ranstorp voiced his fears that these people could attain "rock stardom" among followers in their home countries.
Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson stressed that he would like to see the terrorists on trial in the countries where the crimes were committed. By contrast, Left leader Jonas Sjöstedt demanded that Sweden "does everything" in order to bring the terrorists back to Sweden and punish them on Swedish soil.
So far, Sweden, which has emerged as one of Europe's foremost "jihadi exporters" per capita, has shown surprising lenience in dealing with Daesh returnees. Out of approximately 150 jihadists who returned to Sweden, only a handful have been brought to justice, partly due to difficulties in proving particular individuals' involvement in war crimes, partly due to the absence of laws targeting cooperation with terrorist groups and partly due to the Swedish authorities' quest to "channel jihadis back into society."