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Swedish security service detains imam linked to Islamic State in Somalia

Wednesday May 1, 2024

Police on site after an explosion in Tyreso, Sweden, Thursday March 7, 2023. Sweden’s Security Service said Thursday it had arrested four people on suspicion of preparing “terrorist offenses” with links to Islamic extremism and organized crime. Several houses were searched in the operation. (Anders Wiklund/TT via AP) (Anders Wiklund / Associated Press)

Stockholm (HOL) — The Swedish Security Service (Säpo) has confirmed the arrest of a 60-year-old imam in Tyresö, south of Stockholm, marking a significant escalation in a terrorism investigation that has gripped the community. The imam, associated with the local Islamic cultural association and its basement mosque, is suspected of active involvement in a terrorist organization, with the case unfolding against a backdrop of increasing security concerns in Sweden.

Born and raised in Somalia, the imam has been a long-standing figure in the Tyresö community, leading the mosque since the early 2000s and once serving as the chairman of the cultural association. His arrest follows a series of raids that began last month when four younger men, including two brothers who had converted to Islam, were detained. These individuals are suspected of preparing for terrorist acts and serious weapons offences, with alleged links to the Islamic State in Somalia.

The latest arrest occurred during a dawn raid on April 17 as part of a broader investigation that Säpo indicates began in September of the previous year. According to TV4 Nyheterna, the imam taught Islam to children and youth at the mosque, a role that has now cast a shadow over his decades of service due to the allegations of terrorism.

Isak Reichel, director of the Authority for Support to Religious Communities, expressed deep concerns over the implications of the arrest. "The involvement of an imam is particularly troubling and could undermine public trust in government-funded religious organizations," he stated. The mosque under investigation has received significant state funding, nearly half a million kroner since 2016. It was intended to support organizational operations but is now under scrutiny.

Community members reacted with shock to the news of the imam's detention, with many struggling to reconcile the man they knew with the severe accusations facing him. "It is hard to grasp," remarked one member, who preferred to remain anonymous, "especially since these individuals were known to us as kind and active participants in our community activities."

The arrest is part of a broader security concern in Sweden, which has seen a rise in threats linked to Islamist extremism. Earlier this year, the country faced significant backlash following incidents of Quran burnings, exacerbating tensions and leading to a heightened state of alert by security services. These developments come as Sweden navigates its new role as a NATO member, abandoning its long-standing post-war neutrality in response to evolving global threats.

As the investigation continues, the Swedish Muslim Association has suspended the mosque's membership, and Säpo has declined to provide further details, citing the ongoing nature of their inquiries. Meanwhile, Lars Hedvall from the National Security Unit has stated that the imam denies all charges, but his lawyer has yet to make a public statement.

The community and its leaders are now faced with the challenge of addressing the ramifications of these events, striving to maintain cohesion and trust during unprecedented scrutiny and anxiety.


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