Sweden has raised its terrorist threat level to four, the second-highest level on a scale of five. Level four is a “high threat,” which means there is a very good chance that potential wrongdoers have both the intent and capability to carry out an attack and that a concrete threat against Sweden exists, reports The Local.
This is the first time since 2016 that the Scandinavian country’s domestic security service, SAPO, has raised the alert to that level, writes AP. “Sweden has gone from being considered a legitimate target for terrorist attacks to being considered a prioritised target,” SAPO head Charlotte von Essen told a news conference.
The announcement comes just days after the terrorist group Al-Qaeda urged its supporters to carry out terror attacks in Sweden and Denmark in revenge for a series of Quran burnings. Both Nordic countries have been heavily criticised by Muslim countries for allowing anti-Islamic activists to burn the holy book of Islam, the Quran, in public. Stockholm and Copenhagen have so far resisted pleas to ban the burnings—citing free speech laws—but have not ruled out intervening if national security is deemed to be under threat, which could be the case now.
“The increase in the terror threat level is being done to raise consciousness that the threat we see will remain for a while and society needs to build up its resistance to meet that,” von Essen said. She also warned that the attack threat posed by “violent Islamist actors” has increased in the past year, but the higher alert level was not based on any knowledge of a specific plan.
“Sweden as a country is much more clearly highlighted in calls to action and propaganda. It could inspire and motivate actors, both lone individuals and global terror organisations, to carry out violent acts that could constitute terrorism,” said Ahn-Za Hagström, head of the National Centre for Terror Threat Assessment (NCT). Her words echo the Danish domestic intelligence service’s (PET) statement from Tuesday, August 15th, which said that the recent Quran burnings “have resulted in considerable, negative attention from, among others, militant Islamists.”
According to The Local, Swedish police are already advising visitors to Stockholm’s Kulturfestival to be more attentive and “perhaps take out their headphones.” American, Australian, and British tourists were advised by their governments to exercise caution when visiting Sweden, even before the threat level was raised.
Sweden’s biggest terrorist attack in recent history occurred in 2017, when an Uzbek immigrant, Rakhmat Akilov, mowed down pedestrians on a busy Stockholm street with a truck, killing five people. Akilov had expressed sympathy for the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group, but ISIS did not say whether it was behind the attack.