Overview: The National Center for Terrorist Threat Assessment (NCT) assessed that violent right-wing extremism and violent Islamist extremism posed the main terrorist threats to Sweden in 2021. Current terrorist threats from the left-wing radical environment are currently assessed to be close to nonexistent. A small number of individuals in these extremist environments could possibly develop the intent and capability to carry out a terrorist attack in Sweden. NCT also noted that online radicalization to violence and attacks by lone actors had gradually become more prominent.
The Swedish Security Service reported that violent right-wing extremism had coordinating bodies at the national level, unlike violent Islamist extremism, which lacked the same level of cohesive leadership and organizational structure. However, violent Islamist extremists received the most funding from abroad and had the capability to generate income. Some violent extremist organizations increasingly use digital platforms rather than meeting in person. The Swedish Security Service regularly receives information on firearms and explosives with links to violent right-wing or left-wing extremism. At the end of 2021, the national alert level remained at Level 3 (elevated threat, no evidence of planning) on a scale of 5 (attack imminent, evidence of planning).
The government continued efforts to strengthen its counterterrorism framework. Laws on data retention and signals intelligence improved access to information to fight terrorism in 2021. The new legislation made it easier for the government agencies that make up the National Center for Terrorist Threat Assessment to exchange data.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Sweden in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2021, the government proposed a new Terrorism Offenses Act replacing the three current laws relating to terrorism. All crimes should be tried as terrorist crimes if they have the capacity to hurt a country or an international organization and are carried out with the intent of terrorism. The Act proposes that prison sentences for most crimes relating to terrorism should be raised and Swedish courts should be able to carry out sentences, no matter who has committed the crime or where the crime has been committed. The changes will come into force at midyear of 2022.
Sweden repatriated at least nine female FTFs and their approximately 14 children who had previously been in Syrian Democratic Forces-run detention camps in Syria. The Security Service estimated that around 300 Swedish citizens traveled to join ISIS and around 150 returned during the last few years. One repatriated female foreign terrorist fighter was convicted in District Court in Lund and sentenced to three years in prison for child endangerment after bringing her infant child into the Syrian warzone, where she joined ISIS, and others were being investigated for war crimes. Swedish authorities collaborated closely with the FBI in their efforts to build criminal cases against the Swedish foreign terrorist fighters. The Swedish Center for CVE organized a network of nine agencies and organizations to support the rehabilitation and integration of the returnees.
Sweden is party to the EU’s identity verification and border management tools, such as the Schengen Information System and the Visa Information System. Sweden collects and uses API, and some PNR, and exchanges information with other member states on irregular migration and border control. Sweden used the “serious threat to public policy or internal security” justification permitted under the Schengen Border Code to unilaterally prolong the temporary border controls first introduced in 2015 until midyear of 2022.
The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) and Nordic Strength are the two major neo-Nazi movements in the Nordic countries. The two groups have around 200 active members in Sweden combined. NRM conducted several acts of harassment and vandalism during 2021. The Swedish Jewish community was one of the most targeted groups. The movements also integrated into the anti-vaccine movement.
In January, two members of the “Eco-Fascist and Right-Wing Extremist” group “The Green Brigade” were convicted in District Court in Nacka on charges related to the arson of a mink farm in Southern Sweden in 2019. Because of their age at the time of the crime in Sweden (17 and 18 years old), the two men received no jail time. Court documents showed the men were also discussing attacks against abortion centers and judges among other plots. Swedish authorities and Luxembourg authorities collaborated closely with the FBI throughout the investigation of The Green Brigade.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Sweden is a member of FATF. Its FIU, the National Financial Intelligence Service, is a member of the Egmont Group. There have been no significant changes to legislation or policy since 2020.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Swedish Center for Preventing Violent Extremism promotes and coordinates preventive efforts at the national, regional, and local level. The Center supports municipalities, government agencies, and others in preventing violent extremism. The Security Service, together with other authorities, tried to close five schools that had been under the influence of leading figures in the violent Islamist environment and had been suspected of receiving funds from organizations with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The decision was overruled after the schools’ owners appealed, and a final decision is pending. Malmö and Stockholm are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Sweden is a member of the EU and supports CT efforts in regional and multilateral organizations, including the European Commission’s Radicalization Awareness Network, the EU-9 (focusing on FTFs), the Counterterrorism Group, the Police Working Group on Terrorism, Europol, and the Global Coalition’s Stabilization Working Group.
Sweden engaged in the following efforts to combat terrorism internationally:
- Organizing the 2021 OSCE-wide Counterterrorism Conference
- Funding international CT capacity building projects through development assistance
- Funding to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Terrorism Prevention Branch
- Funding to the OSCE
- Contributing 220 troops (a rifle company and a support unit) to MINUSMA
- Joining the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL
- Extending Sweden’s regional crisis strategy for Syria ($425 million for 2016-23) that includes resilience support for groups affected by ISIS’s progress