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Scandinavian Approach to Counterterrorism, Islamist Ideology Is Fatally Flawed

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by Robin Simcox - The Heritage Foundation

How Western democracies should respond to terrorist attacks is an ongoing concern. One such dilemma is whether the state should just focus on preventing attacks or whether it has an obligation to challenge the ideology that spurs those attacks in the first place.

Two countries currently grappling with that are Sweden and Finland. Individuals inspired by ISIS, the Islamic State terrorist group, attacked both countries last year.

In April 2017, Rakhmat Akilov committed a vehicular attack in the center of Stockholm, using a truck to kill five and injure 10.

Four months later, in August, Abderrahman Bouanane killed two people and injured eight in a series of stabbings in the southwestern Finnish city of Turku.

Bouanane, currently on trial in Helsinki, told the court, “I honestly felt like I was controlled remotely … The idea was to keep attacking as long as a head falls.”

Akilov and Bouanane were both asylum-seekers who either had no rightto be in the country or were in the process of being deported.

Recently, I visited both Sweden and Finland, speaking to dozens of government officials, police officers, and academics to gain insights into how the countries have responded.

Threat Assessment

Sweden suffered its first Islamist terrorism attack in December 2010. Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi, packed explosives into a car in the heart of Stockholm and then detonated his suicide vest in a busy shopping center nearby.

Abdulwahab died, but fortunately, nobody else did. The plot had clearlinks to a precursor group to ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).

There were only 200 Islamists on Stockholm’s intelligence radar at the time of Abdulwahab’s plot. Now, according to Anders Thornberg, the head of Sweden’s security police, that number is 2,000.

Read more: https://www.heritage.org/terrorism/commentary/scandinavian-approach-counterterrorism-islamist-ideology-fatally-flawed