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Source: AP News

May 30, 2024

Stockholm accuses Iran of using criminals in Sweden to target Israel or Jewish interests


COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Sweden’s domestic security agency on Thursday accused Iran of using established criminal networks in Sweden as a proxy to target Israeli or Jewish interests in the Scandinavian country.

The accusations were raised at a news conference by Daniel Stenling, the head of the SAPO agency’s counterespionage unit, following a series of events earlier this year.

In late January, the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was sealed off after what was then described as “a dangerous object” was found on the grounds of the diplomatic mission in an eastern Stockholm neighborhood. Swedish media said the object was a hand grenade.

The embassy was not evacuated and the object was eventually destroyed. No arrests were made and authorities did not say what was found. On May 17, gunshots were heard near the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm and the area was cordoned off. No one was arrested.

Stenling said, without offering specifics or evidence to back up his assertion, that the agency “can establish that criminal networks in Sweden are used as a proxy by Iran.”

“It is very much about planning and attempts to carry out attacks against Israeli and Jewish interests, goals and activities in Sweden,” he said and added that the agency sees “connections between criminal individuals in the criminal networks and individuals who are connected to the Iranian security services.”

Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer and Hampus Nygårds, deputy head of the Swedish police’s National Operations Department, were also at the online news conference with Stenling.

“We see this connection between the Iranian intelligence services, the security services and precisely criminals in the criminal networks in Sweden,” Stenling said. “We see that connection and it also means that we need to work much more internationally to get to the crimes and be able to prevent them.”

Stenling and the others made no mention of the recent incidents connected to the Israel Embassy and stopped short of naming any criminal groups or suspects.

Sweden has grappled with gang violence for years and criminal gangs often recruit teenagers in socially disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods to carry out hits.

By May 15, police have recorded 85 shootings so far this year, including 12 fatal shootings. Last year, 53 people were killed and 109 were wounded in a total of 363 shootings.

Two main gangs — the Foxtrot network headed by Rawa Majid, who lives in exile in Turkey, and its rival, Rumba — have for years been involved in deadly feuds. Ankara had rejected Sweden’s request to have Majid, a Swedish citizen, extradited because he also holds Turkish citizenship.

Stenling said there was no reason to change the terror threat level in Sweden.

Last year, it was heightened to “high,” the fourth of five levels, for the first time since 2016 as the security deteriorated after public burnings of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, that triggered protests in the Muslim world.

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