Sweden deports imam accused of being an ISIS recruiter

Ahmed Ahmed had been held for a year on suspicion of Islamist extremism

Swedish authorities have faced problems with ISIS recruiting in Gothenburg and other cities. Photo: Björn Andrén / Matton Collection / Corbis

An imam suspected of being a recruiter for ISIS has been deported by Sweden after a year in detention.

Ahmed Ahmed, 52, was detained last year on suspicion of being a key figure in the radicalisation and recruitment of ISIS fighters across Sweden, where he had worked in a number of mosques.

Originally from Iraq, Swedish security services deported him last week after a judge ruled he posed a threat to national security.

It is alleged 14 people connected to him travelled to fight for ISIS.

In a 2015 raid on his home, images of ISIS fighters and Osama bin Laden were allegedly found on his phone along with a picture of the Jordanian pilot who was burnt alive by ISIS.

A preliminary investigation against him was dropped and the imam denied the allegations.

“I can confirm that he has been deported,” his lawyer Alparslan Tügel told newspaper Aftonbladet.

He is one of several imams the Swedish government has detained prior to deportation.

Despite criminal charges not proceeding, investigators alleged that he had contact with most of the people in Örebro who had joined ISIS.

Terrorist researcher Magnus Ranstorp told Swedish newspaper Doku that Mr Ahmed was a key recruiter.

“He has been important when it comes to recruitment in Örebro but he has also worked in other cities such as Gothenburg, Stockholm and Eskilstuna,” he said.

“He is a travelling radicaliser and recruiter. It is important to remove important security threats to Sweden — this will affect the security situation in the future.”

It is understood Iraq refused to accept Mr Ahmed, so he was placed on flight to Turkey and given a small amount of money, a mobile phone and a plane ticket to Iraq, his wife told Aftonbladet.

Five top Muslim clerics, including a school chancellor, were detained following a series of raids linked to suspected extremism in Sweden in 2019.

Swedish security service Sapo arrested three imams, the head of one of the country’s leading state-funded Islamic schools and one of the imam’s sons.

Of those arrested, the School of Science's former principal Abdel Nasser El Nadi has voluntarily left Sweden to avoid deportation.

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

The crackdown comes as the Swedish government seeks to bring in tougher laws to target extremists.

Many of those arrested had previously been refused Swedish citizenship over the last decade.

Latest figures from 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 have been killed.

Sweden is the largest exporter of ISIS fighters per capita in Europe.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 4:02 PM