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Sweden raises terrorist alert level after Koran burnings

A police officer on a Segway patrols Sweden's parliament Riksdagen as the terror threat level in Sweden is raised to four on a five-point scale, in Stockholm, Sweden, August 17, 2023. Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/via REUTERS reuters_tickers

By Terje Solsvik and Johan Ahlander

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Sweden’s national security service raised its terrorist alert to the second highest level on Thursday and warned that the threat of attack could persist for a long time after burnings and other acts against the Koran outraged Muslims.

Denmark and Sweden have tightened border controls in fear of revenge attacks after anti-Islam activists damaged several copies of the Muslim holy book in recent months.

There has been widespread condemnation from many parts of the Muslim world, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urging severe punishment for those responsible and saying Sweden was in battle mode against the Muslim world.

Sweden’s SAPO security service raised the warning level from 3 to 4 on a scale from 1-5, reflecting a “high threat”.

“Sweden has gone from being considered a legitimate target for terrorist attacks to being considered a prioritised target,” SAPO head Charlotte von Essen told a news conference.

She said the attack threat posed by “violent Islamist actors” has increased in the past year but that the hiking of the alert level was not down to any knowledge of a specific plan.

“The increase in the terror threat level is being done to raise consciousness that the threat we see will remain for a while and society needs to build up its resistance to meet that, von Essen said.

MILITARY ALERT

The Swedish armed forces also said they were raising the terrorism threat level for operations.

Britain and the United States have warned nationals against going to Sweden due to possible terrorist attacks amid protests there and in neighbouring Denmark over the Koran burnings.

Sweden and Denmark are among the most liberal countries in the world, and have long allowed trenchant criticism of religions.

But many Muslims view desecrating the Koran, which they consider to be the literal word of God, as a grave offence worthy of severe punishment.

Sweden’s biggest terrorist attack in recent history occurred in 2017, when an Uzbek immigrant who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State mowed down pedestrians on a busy Stockholm street with a truck, killing five people.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson, Johan Ahlander Terje Solsvik, Louise Rasmussen and Niklas Pollard;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Devika Syamnath)

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