Three things we know about the terror threat in Sweden

The US is warning Americans in Sweden of possible terror attacks in retaliation of recent Koran burning incidents, but the Swedish security police say their terror threat level remains unchanged. Here's a brief rundown of what we know so far.

Three things we know about the terror threat in Sweden
File photo of the US embassy in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The US is warning its citizens to keep a low profile

The warning was published in a new notice on the US embassy’s homepage.

“US citizens are advised to use caution when going to public venues frequented by large numbers of people. Gathering sites such as places of worship could be targeted. Please use caution when in, and around, all diplomatic facilities. Report suspicious activity to the relevant authorities,” reads the notice.

‘Disinformation campaign against Sweden’

The warning comes after a far-right extremist last month burned the Koran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, causing Turkey to suspend Nato talks with Sweden and Finland, and causing outrage and demonstrations in many Muslim countries.

Swedish authorities have previously warned that anger sparked by incidents such as the burning of the Koran, as well as the hanging of an effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by a pro-Kurdish group in January, could lead to a risk of threats.


At a press conference last week, the head of Sweden’s Psychological Defence Agency said that there was an ongoing extensive disinformation campaign against Sweden, including violent statements mentioning the country as a legitimate terror target following protests such as these.

Overall terror threat level remains unchanged

The Swedish security police have not raised Sweden’s terror threat level as a result.

It is currently at three on a scale from one to five, where it has remained since 2010, with the exception of a period in 2015 when it was temporarily raised to four.

Level three is described as “elevated” which means “an attack could happen” but doesn’t mean one is imminent.

A spokesperson for the security police told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that they were aware of the warning from the US government.

“All countries make their own threat assessments and have their own classifications. In the case of the US we refer to them. As for our assessment of the terror threat leavel, it remains at an elevated level, a three on a five-point scale,” said the spokesperson.

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Sweden sends new terror law to parliament

Sweden's government has sent a new law to parliament criminalising taking part in a terror organisation, a key step in convincing Turkey the country is taking action to crack down on the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden sends new terror law to parliament

In a press statement, the government said that the new law would criminalise “all forms of support to a terrorist organisation, regardless of whether it is material assistance or assistance in the form of participation in its activities”. 

The law has been seen as an important step towards meeting the terms of the trilateral memorandum Sweden signed with Turkey and Finland in June, which committed the country to “prevent activities of the PKK and all other terrorist organisations and their extensions, as well as activities by individuals in affiliated and inspired groups or networks linked to these terrorist organisations”. 

Sweden’s justice minister, Gunnar Strömmer, refused to comment on how the new law would affect efforts to prosecute members and affiliates of the PKK in Sweden. 

“How the law ends up being used in practice is a question for the law enforcement authorities,” he said. “What we can say is that every terrorist organisation will now have to face an even more powerful toolbox from Sweden’s side.” 

Although the new law will help Sweden’s case in its attempts to win Turkish backing for its Nato application, it has in fact been in preparation for six years.

The law as initially proposed was heavily criticised by the Council on Legislation, which questioned the need for the law, given that “associating with a terrorist organisation” is already a crime, and criticised the way the law has been framed as too vague and liable to criminalise too wide a range of people. 

The government believes that the new law is necessary to change and convict people who actively support a terrorist organisation without taking part in or planning a specific terrorist attack. 

Strömmer said that the law could criminalise a wide range of actions taken to support a terrorist group, such as arranging meeting places, looking after housing, looking after children, making food, and arranging transport.  

Expressing support or sympathy for a terror group will, however, not be criminalised under law unless it qualifies as propaganda, and Strömmer said that the government had met some of the Council on Legislation’s criticisms in its final proposal.

“We have made it even clearer that the law does not apply to resistance movements that are fighting for democratic social conditions in an totalitarian state,” he said.