EU state raises Islamist terror threat level
Sweden’s national security agency has raised its terror alert to the second highest level after a string of Quran-burning incidents in the country sparked anger across the Muslim world.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Charlotte von Essen, chief of the Swedish Security Service (SAPO), revealed that the threat level had been increased from three to four on a five-point scale. The assessment implies that the Swedish authorities see a “high” and “concrete” threat to the country and its population.
Explaining the decision, von Essen said it had not been prompted by a single incident, but rather by an overall assessment of the current situation.
The official noted that “the threat of attacks from actors within violent Islamism has increased during the year.”
“Sweden has gone from being considered a legitimate target for terrorist attacks to being considered a priority target,” she added.
Speaking alongside von Essen, Ahn-Za Hagstrom, director of the National Center for Terror Threat Assessment, pointed to “the recent period of violations of religious scriptures” as one of the reasons that has “contributed to the image of Sweden as a Muslim-hostile country.”
The last time Sweden was on level four terror alert was between November 2015 and March 2016, at the height of the migration crisis in the EU and recurring terror attacks by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) on the continent.
The new terror alert comes after several instances of activists desecrating the Quran in Stockholm by burning and stomping on the holy book. The stunts triggered outrage in Muslim-majority countries, with protesters in Iraq attempting to storm Stockholm’s embassy, and an Iranian crowd burning a Swedish flag.
Türkiye, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, the UAE, and Jordan also condemned Sweden for the incidents, while Iraq expelled the country’s ambassador. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson criticized the Quran burnings, warning that the “destructive” behavior increased risks for the nation.