ISIS still targeting Swedish city despite closure of extremist school

Sweden’s security service Sapo says ISIS radicalisation is still taking place

Swedish authorities say ISIS is still seeking to recruit people in Gothenburg, Sweden. Image by © Björn Andrén / Matton Collection / Corbis
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Swedish authorities have warned Islamic extremists are still targeting a vulnerable city despite having closed a school over radicalisation concerns.

Sweden’s security service Sapo says ISIS radicalisation is still taking place in areas of Gothenburg.

It comes after the authorities shutdown the state-funded Islamic Vetenskapsskolan school in the city after it was accused of hiring ISIS fighters as teachers after their return from Syria.

Officials have been focusing on issues in Gothenburg as more than a third of Swedish ISIS fighters are believed to have come from the city.

Lisa Pedersen, head of security coordination in the district administration Angered, said extremist groups are still working to undermine the authorities.

"There are forces that want to weaken the democratic systems," she told Swedish Radio.

“They say come to us for help and support and do not go to social services or borrow money from us and do not go to banks and this way they regain some kind of power.”

Latest figures from Sweden's security service Sapo reveal at least 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria and Iraq between 2012 and 2017 to join extremist groups.

It is believed half have returned, 100 are still fighting and 50 were killed.

Sweden is the largest exporter of ISIS fighters per capita in Europe. Under its laws, it is not illegal to be part of or to assist a terrorist organisation.

Andreas Westerberg, public safety co-ordinator for social services, told Swedish Radio: "The environment that radicalises people to join ISIS is still around but is not as apparent as it once was. There are other anti-democratic forces operating in the area which are causing problems in these areas.

“North East Gothenburg is home to some especially vulnerable areas all in close proximity of each other and have large crime and poverty rates which can lead to extremism.”

Swedish authorities have faced increasing domestic and international criticism for failing to arrest and prosecute returning ISIS fighters, amid suggestions that the country could be regarded as a sanctuary for terrorists.

In recent months the security services have mounted a crackdown on extremism by raising concerns about ISIS networks operating at two schools.

Last month the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office announced 10 new investigations into ISIS members who have returned to Sweden in connection with war crimes.

The National Unity Against International and Organised Crime unit is investigating suspects in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, and Bergslagen.