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Terrorism For Members

What does terror attack against Swedes mean for Denmark?

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
What does terror attack against Swedes mean for Denmark?
The old town in San Marino, where Denmark's national team will play on Tuesday. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Abdesalem Lassoued, the suspected perpetrator of the Brussels terror attack, said in a video that he had 'killed three Swedes' as 'revenge in the name of Muslims'. Why would Swedish citizens be terror targets and how does it affect Denmark given similarities between the countries?

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“I am from the Islamic State," Lassoued, 45, said in the video statement posted online immediately after the attack, in which two Swedish citizens were shot and killed ahead of a football match between Belgium and Sweden in Brussels.

"We love those who love us and we hate those who hate us. We live for our religion and we die for our religion. Your brother took revenge in the name of Muslims. I have killed three Swedes so far," Lassoued said in the video.

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Why would the perpetrator target Swedes? 

It is still unknown why Lassoued chose Swedes as his target.

What we know is that at least four militant Islamic terror groups have in the past year called for revenge attacks against Sweden in response to the series of Quran-burning protests carried out by the Iraqi activist Salwan Momika and by the Danish activist Rasmus Paludan. 

As a result, Sweden's National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment in August raised the terror threat level to "High", or four on a scale of five.

In an interview with The Local at the time, terror researcher Magnus Ranstorp called the threat against Sweden "unprecedented". 

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When Swedish security services that month raised the national terror threat level, Danish police intelligence service PET did not raise its rating of the terror threat against Denmark.

But this was because “the terror threat against Denmark and against Danish interests abroad has been at the level ‘serious’, which is four out of five, for a number of years. That is equivalent to the level that Sweden is now going up to,” PET said at the time.

READ ALSO: Why has Denmark not raised terror threat level like Sweden?

Swedish media report that Lassoued has a Tiktok account where he among other things follows an account that shares posts supporting the so-called LVU campaign, a disinformation campaign spreading the conspiracy theory that Muslim children are being kidnapped by Swedish social services.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a press conference on Tuesday that Lassoued had on occasion been to Sweden, although he did not elaborate further.

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Are there any threats aimed at Denmark?

Like in Sweden, there was a spate of Quran burnings in Denmark this summer, particularly by members of the Danish extreme right group Danske Patrioter.

The demonstrations elicited angry demonstrations in front of the Danish embassy in Iraq, and diplomatic complaints to Denmark by individual countries and the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Denmark's Foreign Ministry condemned the Quran burnings, and the government has since launched a bid to introduce legislation banning the act.

In August, terror organisation al-Qaida urged its supporters to carry out terror attacks on Sweden and Denmark in revenge of the Quran burnings.

As-Sahab Media Foundation, which functions as al-Qaida's media centre, published a call for Muslims to "take revenge" on Denmark and Sweden , in an announcement titled "The obligation to attack the aggressive peoples".

"People of Islam in Sweden, Denmark and all of Europe," the announcement read. "The duty of revenge is placed upon you". 

The Danish Ministry of Justice said it took the threat “seriously”.

“We have a threat level against Denmark that is serious and that has now been intensified recently,” Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard said.

“It’s important for me to say that we have highly competent and alert police and security services that are looking out for us,” he said.

Hummelgaard said there was a clear line between the Quran burnings and the threat from al-Qaida.

“Recent Quran burnings have caused significant negative attention from militant Islamists and that is significant for the threat level,” he said.

“That’s why this is something our security services and the government takes very seriously,” he said.

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Are Danes being advised to take any additional precautions abroad or in Denmark?

Speaking to Danish news wire Ritzau on Tuesday, Ranstorp said Quran burnings in Sweden are part of the explanation for the terror attacks aimed at Swedes in Brussels.

“But you must look at what has happened in in light of the LVU campaign, Quran burnings, increased terror threat and the fact that terror organisations have made concrete threats against Sweden,” he said, referring to the LVU conspiracy theory spread by accounts Lassoued followed on TikTok.

But it is the Quran burnings in particular which have raised the threat against Sweden according to Ranstorp.

Although Quran burnings have also taken place in Denmark, Monday’s events do not increase the level of threat to Danes, he argued.

“The threat against Denmark is already high but it has been for a long time. You have to go all the way back to Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the Mohammed cartoons [in 2005, ed.],” he said.

“At the moment I think the threat against Sweden is higher than it is against Denmark,” he said.

Denmark’s Foreign Ministry has not changed its guidelines to Danish football fans who are travelling abroad ahead of the national men’s football team’s match in San Marino on Tuesday night.

“The Foreign Ministry states that the conditions for travellers to Italy and San Marino are unchanged,” it said to broadcaster DR.

“However, the Foreign Ministry is in dialogue with DBU [Danish football association, ed.] and local authorities and still recommends the use of common sense and to be alert to suspicious behaviour as you would if you were in Denmark,” it stated.

“Remember as always to follow the directions of local authorities,” it said.

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