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Gesta Bellica
Thursday, May 13th, 2004, 11:20 AM
I find this article particularly impressive in a negative way, expecially for the numbers evidencied with "bold" characters...

Wed May 12, 9:10 AM ET

Sweden Fights Image of 'Safe Haven' for Terror
By Stephen Brown

LINK:http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=572&ncid=572&e=4&u=/nm/20040512/lf_nm/security_sweden_dc_1

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Victims of dictatorships from Chile to Iraq (news - web sites), people fleeing violence in the Balkans or the Horn of Africa, and rebels and separatists from Indonesia or Latin America have for decades found refuge in neutral Sweden.



But as even the most law-abiding corners of the globe get dragged into the "war on terror" pitching the United States and its allies against supporters of al Qaeda and Iraqi resistance, Sweden is taking a closer look at some of its foreign guests.

The new head of the SAPO security police, Klas Bergenstrand, pulled no punches when he told national radio: "In Sweden too there are people participating in networks whose ultimate goal is to carry out terrorist attacks."

SAPO's head of counter-terrorism, Margarethe Linderoth, told Reuters in an interview that "all terrorist organizations are more or less represented in Sweden with one or more persons."

But while acknowledging that Sweden's asylum policy and membership of the European Union (news - web sites)'s border-free Schengen zone made it hard to check the flow of people, she said new laws passed in 2003 should help ensure Sweden is "not a safe haven."

Recent arrests of suspected Islamic militants in Stockholm and Malmo have brought home the idea that even Sweden, which has not been to war for 200 years and does its best to project an image of compassionate neutrality, is not immune.

In a poll by the tabloid Aftonbladet, over 90 percent of 20,000 respondents said "terrorists" were hiding in Sweden.

It is one of Europe's fastest-growing immigrant destinations and among the fifth of the population born abroad or to foreign parents, many are from troubled zones including 70,000 Iraqis and 60,000 Iranians. That makes it easy to find cover, say SAPO.

SLEEPING CELLS

Gunnar Jervas, terror expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, told Reuters that the ethnic mix, generous asylum laws and welfare and "the fact that the police are not on your tail" meant that "in principle Sweden should be a very good country for terror planning purposes. It is entirely reasonable to believe that there could be 'sleeping cells' here that are planning terror actions abroad."

Anders Hellner at the Foreign Policy Institute wrote in a column that Sweden hosted "many groups and cells who support al Qaeda and other similar terror organizations -- many more than we know about. Some are very active and willing to take up terrorist methods to reach their political goal."

Sweden has been visited by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites): a snapshot shows him as a teen-ager with 22 of his siblings next to a pink Cadillac during a family holiday in Sweden in 1971.

Back then in the Cold War, NATO (news - web sites) outsider Sweden was becoming a favored guerrilla hide-out and in 1988 police discovered that radical Palestinian group Abu Nidal had set up a cell here with an arms cache in a forest near Arlanda international airport.

But the vulnerability of Sweden's "open society," where bodyguards were not needed, was dramatized in 1986 with the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme and last year when Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was killed by a mentally unstable man.

When police arrested four suspected Muslim extremists in April, Sweden's largest such swoop since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and a Malmo post-mark showed up on a threat against Thailand for sending soldiers to Iraq, Prime Minister Goran Persson said the "war on terror" had come to Sweden despite its opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

"The fight against terrorism must also take place in Sweden, when it is called for we must not hesitate," Persson said.

DANGEROUS ELEMENTS?



"Sweden is waking up, at last, to the fact that they have dangerous elements here," observed a Middle Eastern diplomat.

With 400,000 Muslims living in Sweden and the ruling Social Democrats unswerving in their devotion to equality, authorities are careful to avoid offending any ethnic or religious group.

"I don't think there is a single Muslim in Sweden who deserves to be called terrorist and nobody with any links to terrorism," said Mahmoud Aldebe, a Muslim community leader.

Diplomats from countries involved in long guerrilla wars say Sweden seems keen not to be considered a "safe haven" for rebel groups or supporters. When Palestinian militant group Hamas's Web site was found in March to be hosted on a server in Sweden, SAPO referred it to prosecutors and the site was taken down.

Colombia's FARC guerrillas ran their own "news agency," ANNCOL, out of Sweden, until police took unspecified action and it relocated to Denmark. Colombia's vice president, Francisco Santos, told Reuters in Stockholm in March that "there were abuses" but Sweden's asylum policy had changed.

One group eager to see if that is true is the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), seeking independence from Indonesia. Its exiled leaders, based in a Stockholm suburb for 20 years, recently took on lawyers "as a precaution" after Swedish prosecutors went to Indonesia in March to investigate Jakarta's charges that they were terrorists directing the armed struggle from Sweden.

"We are ready for any eventuality. With our people being killed at home we fear nothing, but we believe there is law and justice in Sweden," said GAM spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah.

"We believe that when they find out these people break the law by performing terrorist acts, the Swedish government should know what to do with them," countered an Indonesian diplomat.