On the afternoon of December 11, 2010, a suicide bomber blew himself up in downtown Stockholm. The fatal blast occurred 10 minutes after a car exploded and injured two persons on a nearby street. The bombing has been defined as a terror crime by Swedish Secret Police (SÄPO).
The Suicide bomber was later identified as Taimour Abdulwahab, a 29-year old Swede of Iraqi origin who was raised in the little town of Tranås in the south of Sweden. He is married and a father of three children and had been living with his wife and three children in a house in Luton, just north of London, as recently as three weeks ago. Abdulwahab came to Sweden in 1992 and became a citizen in 1998. Since 2001 he was living in Luton, UK where he had studied to become a physical therapist and some reports suggests he became radicalized through contacts with Hizb ut-Tahrir representatives in a local mosque there. Lately he also seems to have spent some time in the Middle East – possibly Jordan – where he, according to a letter he sent out before the suicide attack – was engaged in Jihad.
He had been in Sweden for about four weeks before the bombing. The first explosion, sending two people to the hospital was set of in a car, filled with canisters of liquefied petroleum gas and fireworks. Minutes later came the other explosion on a side street, parallel to one of the main shopping streets in Stockholm. Abdulwahab had straped six bombs to his body, and was carrying a backpack filled with nails. It seems one of the bombs went off prematurely, before he was able to reach his destination (which is unknown), killing Abdulwahab himself without setting the other bombs off or injuring anyone else.
Roughly ten minutes before the explosions, Abdulwahab is to have sent an e-mail to the Swedish news agency TT and the Security Service in which he referred to the presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan and the Swedish artist Lars Vilks’ drawing of Muhammad as a roundabout dog. The letter furthermore said: “Now will your children, daughters and sisters die the same way our brothers and sisters die? Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you don’t end your war against Islam and degradation against the prophet and your foolish support for the pig Vilks.” The message ended with a call to “all Muhajedin in Europe and Sweden. Now is the time to strike, wait no longer. Go forward with whatever you have, even if it is a knife, and I know you have more than a knife. Fear no one, don’t fear prison, and don’t fear death.”
Monday 13 SÄPO held a press conference where they reported that the police are interviewing witnesses, conducting forensic investigations of the explosives and collecting CCTV footage from businesses in the area and from roads leading into and out of the area. Police are also processing a substantial amount of information from the general public.
“We are working around the clock. The Stockholm County Police and the National Bureau of Investigation are assisting us in this work, and we are also cooperating with British police authorities” said Anders Thornberg, head of security measures at the Swedish Security Service.
According to Chief Public Prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand at the International Public Prosecution Office in Stockholm, Abdulwahab has not previously come to the attention of the Security Service.
Based on what the police currently know, SÄPO believes that the man acted alone. “That said, we know from previous experience that this type of crime usually involves more than one individual. The attack appears to have been well-planned, and we assume that the suicide bomber had accomplices,” said Tomas Lindstrand.
However, no one else is presently suspected of any involvement in the attack.
According to Anders Thornberg, warnings similar to that sent to the Security Service and the Swedish news agency TT shortly before the attack are received by the Service almost on a daily basis. Based on current circumstances, the Security Service is not making any changes to the present terrorist threat level, which remains elevated. Threat levels are assessed on an hourly basis.
Even so Magnus Ranstorp, a security expert from the Swedish National Defence College (Försvarshögskolan), says: “Based on my experience, it’s one thing if it’s just a car fire. But to go and put together pipe bombs and sacrifice your life – I’d be very surprised if he didn’t have contact with other individuals.” Ranstorp cautioned, however, that it was too early to say whether the man who apparently blew himself up in Stockholm on Saturday has ties to any established terrorist networks.
SÄPO has received help from FBI bomb experts in their investigations. Despite the suicide attack, SÄPO has no plans to heighten Sweden’s threat level.
A number of Muslim representatives in Sweden have condemned the attack in Media. For example Imam Abd al-Haww Kielan, chairman of the Swedish Islamic Communion, said this is an act totally against Islam. Also Hassan Moussa, Imam in the central Mosque in Stockholm, condemns it is as a criminal act of terror. The organization; Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice organized a demonstration against violence in Stockholm Sunday.
There were also reactions of another kind. Alexandra Brunell, secretary to the far-right wing Sweden Democrat wrote “Is it now one can say ‘what was it we said’’ on her twitter, ending the tweet with the word “Finally”.
Also the Sweden Democrat William Petzäll was tweeting on Sunday evening: “I hate to say this, but what was it that we said?”
Tuesday the Sweden Democrats demanded a debate in Sweden’s parliament on Islamic extremism. “There is today a large public interest in a debate around these questions. People want to know how we as politicians look at Islamic extremism and what the preventive work looks like,” Party leader Jimmie Åkesson said in a statement.
Wednesday December 15 SÄPO published a report on violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden. The report was ordered by the government in 2010. On their homepage they conclude:
Violence-promoting Islamist extremism and radicalisation do exist in Sweden and should not be underestimated as potential threats. However, the currently limited occurrences of these phenomena should be countered mainly by an increased focus on preventive measures. These are the main conclusions of the report on violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden presented to Government today.
In February 2010, the Security Service was commissioned by the Government to put together an official report on violence-promoting Islamist extremism. The report contains a description of violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden, discernible radicalization processes and tools and strategies for use in countering radicalization. The overall purpose of the report is to facilitate a more balanced and informed debate on these issues.
Focus on other countries:
According to the report, there are a number of networks based on a violence-promoting Islamist extremist ideology that are currently active in Sweden. Most of these networks focus on action and propaganda against foreign troops in Muslim countries and against governments they see as corrupt and not representing what the networks consider to be the only true interpretation of Islam. Individual who are active in these networks engage in activities aiming to support and facilitate terrorist offenses mainly in other countries.
Relatively limited number of people.
The report also shows that the threat from violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden is currently not a threat to the fundamental structures of society, Sweden´s democratic system or Central Government. This form of extremism may however constitute a threat to both individuals and groups.
Only a relatively limited number of people are involved in violence-promoting Islamist extremism, and the group of active members on whose actions the descriptions in this report are based consists of just under 200 individuals. There is nothing to indicate that the number of people radicalized in Sweden is growing.
The importance of preventive measures:
Violence-promoting Islamist extremism and radicalization should be countered mainly by an increasing focus on preventive measures. Given the substantial similarities in terms of how and why people radicalize, regardless of ideological affiliation, it should be possible to better coordinate preventive efforts and countermeasures targeting various extremist groups.
Experiences and knowledge gained from crime prevention initiatives in general should also play a more prominent role. Preventive work should be engaged in by actors on all levels of society — nationally, regionally as well as locally.
The whole report is possible to download (in Swedish, without an English summary) from SÄPO’s homepage: www.sapo.se