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‘Mossad set me up’: Swede held in Bangkok

A Lebanese-born Swede arrested in Thailand last week on terror suspicions has professed his innocence, claiming he was set up by Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

'Mossad set me up': Swede held in Bangkok

“I’m 100 percent innocent,” 47-year-old Hussein Atris told the Aftonbladet newspaper from a remand center in Thailand where he is being held on suspicion of possessing illegal bomb making materials.

Atris was arrested last Thursday at the Bangkok airport as he was about to board a flight back to his home in Lebanon.

While he was initially suspected of terrorism, Atris was later formally charged with illegal explosives possession after Thai police said they found large amounts of ammonium nitrate and fertilizer in a storage facility rented by Atris on the outskirts of Bangkok.

But the 47-year-old, who moved to Sweden in 1989 and took Swedish citizenship in 1994, claims he was set up.

“A lot of the material police found in my storage facility had been placed there, most likely by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad,” Atris told the newspaper.

Atris said had been treated well by Thai authorities, but missed his family in Lebanon, where he has lived since moving back from Sweden in 2005 after a decade working as a hair dresser in Gothenburg.

He maintained he had nothing to do with the suspicions against him.

“This is a plot; I’m only involved in regular business activities,” he said.

Atris was arrested following warnings from the United States and Israel of possible terrorist attacks in the Thai capital.

According to Thai police, Atris has links to Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shiite group considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States.

Atris believes Mossad has singled him out because he is a Shiite Muslim who lives in an area outside of Beirut where support for Hezbollah is strong.

While he denies being a member of Hezbollah, he admits to having “left-leaning” sympathies.

“I voted for the Social Democrats when I lived in Sweden. That may have made me look suspicious in the eyes of the Mossad. They had an eye on me,” he told the newspaper.

Following his arrest, there was confusion about Atris’s nationality, but the Swedish foreign ministry confirmed earlier this week that Atris did have a Swedish passport. He told Aftonbladet he holds both Lebanese and Swedish citizenship and visited Sweden in 2010 to get a new Swedish passport containing biometric information.

Atris explained that, at the time of his arrest, he was in Thailand on business to check on how the storage facilities he had rented near the Thai capital had fared following flooding in the area in November and December.

“We bought goods in Asia and exported them to other countries, including Lebanon. It was fans, copy paper, ice packs used for pain relief,” Atris said, explaining the operations of an import-export business he started with a friend in Lebanon three years ago.

According to Thai police, the storage container contained bomb making material, including large quantities of ammonia and fertilizer.

“The [ice packs] contain ammonia,” Atris explained.

“It’s as simple as that. We’ve never traded in fertilizer. It must have been placed in our storage facility by someone, probably the Mossad.”

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BREAKING

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

Prosecutors in Sweden are now treating the murder at the Almedalen political festival as a terror crime, with the country's Säpo security police taking over the investigation.

Swedish prosecutors upgrade Almedalen knife attack to terror crime

In a press release issued on Monday evening, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that the 32-year-old attacker, Theodor Engström, was now suspected of the crime of “terrorism through murder”, and also “preparation for a terror crime through preparation for murder”. 

Engström stabbed the psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren last Wednesday as she was on her way to moderate a seminar at the Almedalen political festival on the island of Gotland. 

Although he was a former member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, police said his motive seemed to be to protest against Sweden’s psychiatry services, who he felt had treated his own mental illness badly. 

The release gave no details as to why the 32-year-old was now being investigated for a more serious crime, but terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the Expressen newspaper that the shift indicated that police had uncovered new evidence. 

READ ALSO: What do we now know about the Almedalen knife attack? 

“The new crime classification means that they’ve either found a political motive for the attack which meets the threshold for terrorism, and that might be a political motive for murdering Ing-Marie Wieselgren,” he said. “Or they might have discovered that he was scouting out a politician, or another target that could be considered political.” 

Engström’s defence lawyer said last week that his client, who he described as disturbed and incoherent, had spoken in police interrogations of having “a higher-up target”. 

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