COPENHAGEN – A senior Swedish official said Monday Swedes abroad and businesses linked to Sweden“should observe increased vigilance and caution,” following recent Quran burnings in the country and protests in the Muslim world.
Henrik Landerholm, Sweden’s National Security Adviser, said there are signs of “a heightened threat" to the country and to Swedish interests abroad, adding the security situation has worsened.
In a statement, Landerholm said that “representatives of terrorist groups have called for attacks against Sweden. States and other actors have helped amplify such messages.” He said extremists who previously considered Sweden a “legitimate target" now consider it a “priority." The statement did not identify those involved.
Landerholm said there also were ”indications" that groups are planning other acts against Swedish interests abroad, and cited the storming of Sweden’s Embassy in Baghdad last month and an attempted attack on the diplomatic mission in Beirut last week.
The Swedish government and relevant authorities ”are monitoring developments, taking a variety of measures and working closely with international partners to protect Swedes and Swedish interests abroad and to counteract the hate messages being spread about Sweden," he said,
This month, Sweden stepped up border controls and identity checks at crossing points.
A recent string of public Quran desecrations by a handful of anti-Islam activists in Sweden — and more recently in neighboring Denmark -- has sparked angry demonstrations in Muslim countries.
Sweden does not have a law specifically prohibiting the burning or desecration of the Quran or other religious texts. Like many Western countries, it doesn’t have any blasphemy laws; Sweden’s were abandoned in the 1970s.
The right to hold public demonstration s is protected by the Swedish Constitution. Police generally give permission based on whether they believe a public gathering can be held without major disruptions or risks to public safety.
Swedish officials repeatedly have condemned the desecrations and have also debunked claims that the government in Sweden grants permission for people to burn Islam’s sacred text or other religious books,
Last month, the Scandinavian country’s domestic security service SAPO said the overall security situation has deteriorated and said the risk of terrorism in Sweden remains at an elevated level.