An email received by Swedish news agency TT warned "now your children, daughters and sisters die like our brothers' and sisters' children die." Shortly afterwards, one person was killed and two were injured in Sweden's first terrorist attack Saturday evening.
"Our actions will speak for themselves, as long as you don't stop your war against Islam and degrading the prophet and your stupid support of that pig [Muhammad cartoonist Lars] Vilks…" an audio file attached to the email said.
The joint suicide attack and car bombing targeted Drottninggatan, the Swedish capitol's busiest shopping district. The scene of Christmas shoppers fleeing in panic was a new sight for Sweden, which in October raised its terror alert from low to "elevated" over concerns about "a shift in activities" among local extremist groups. It was the first time the country's authorities had been on such a high level of alert.
The email, which did not specify whether the bombing was a lone attack or part of an organized effort, called on other terrorists to attack. "Now it's time to strike, don't wait any longer," it declared. "Come forward with whatever you've got, even if it's only a knife. I know you've got more coming up."
Although the attack was Sweden's first at home, terrorists with Swedish connections have begun appearing throughout the world.
Somali's al-Shabaab recently issued a new recruitment video, targeting international jihadists and particularly Somali youth living abroad. In a Swedish-language section, former Swedish resident Abu Zaid called on his audience to "make Hijra," to immigrate to Somalia. Drawing his finger across his throat, Abu Zaid also threatened cartoonist Lars Vilks, whose drawings of the Prophet Muhammad have led to death threats that now keep Vilks living in seclusion. "Know what awaits you, as it will be nothing but this, slaughter," Zaid told the Swedish listeners, "If you can, kill this dog Lars Vilks. Then you will receive a great reward from Allah."
Some of the approximately 25,000 Somalis living in Sweden have responded to al-Shabaab's call. Police and residents report that roughly 20 youth left to join the terrorist group, particularly from the heart of the Swedish Somali community, Stockholm's suburb of Rinkeby. The Swedish state security police, SAPO, stated that five of them have been killed and 10 are still at large in Somalia. Al-Shabaab recruitment was also linked by Swedish authorities to a Somali youth center in Rinkeby, which had been receiving funds from the Swedish government. In addition, two Somali immigrants, one from Stockholm and another from Gothenburg, recently received 4 year sentences for planning to go and fight with al-Shabab.
Swedish Islamists have been tied to other causes abroad. In 2010, a Tunisian immigrant to Sweden blew himself up in Iraq, killing and injuring police officers in an attack for al-Qaida affiliate Islamic State of Iraq. He left behind four children and his wife, who declared, "What he has done is right. I'm proud of him."
His attack came two years after U.S. forces killed the No. 2 of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Qaswara, who had become a Swedish citizen after fighting in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Abu Qaswara was a nickname for Mohamed Moumou, a designated terrorist by the European Union and the United States. Moumou, whom the US designation described as "Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's representative in Europe for issues related to chemical and biological weapons," ran an extremist group centered around Brandenburg Mosque in Stockholm. Also in 2008, a Moroccan court sentenced another Swede, Ahmed Essafri, for being part of a "27-man terrorist structure which was recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq."
Gouled Hassan Dourad, a Somali Guantanamo detainee who spent time in Sweden, was an al-Qaida operative in East Africa and a member of Al-Itihad Al-Islami (AIAI). While in Sweden, an Imam at a Somali mosque arranged for Dourad and AIAI bombmaker Qasim Mohamed to train in Afghanistan in preparation for war in Somalia.