Three out of four men arrested in Denmark December 29, suspected of planning an attack on the newspaper JyllandsPosten in Copenhagen, came from Sweden. And later a fifth man connected to the plot against the Danish newspaper, which published the Muhammad cartoons five years back, was arrested in Stockholm.
The arrest was preceded by intelligence work by as well the Swedish (SÄPO) and the Danish (PET) Secret Police. According to Jacob Scharf at PET, Several of the suspects could be described “as militant Islamists with connections to international terror networks.” Danish justice minister Lars Barfoed said in a comment that the arrest prevented what could have been the most serious attack to ever occur in Denmark. One suspects that the plan was to try to gain access to JyllandsPosten’s office building and to try to shot as many as possible, and maybe also take hostages.
The arrested men are a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background, a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. The first three were all living in Sweden and travelled to Denmark overnight in a rented car. SÄPO had the men under surveillance and followed them all the way to Copenhagen, where they were arrested as soon as they connected to the man living there.
“We learned that people in Sweden were planning a terror crime in Denmark. We’ve known about it for several months. These people are known to the police in Sweden. We contacted our Danish colleagues. We’ve had people under intense surveillance,” SÄPO head Anders Danielsson said on Wednesday.
One of the men arrested in Denmark, a 29-year-old Swede of Lebanese decent, have been arrested two times earlier. In 2007 he was arrested in Somalia together with several other Swedes, including his then 17-year-old fiancée, on suspicions of having fought on the side of Islamic forces in the ongoing battle in Somalia. He was also arrested once in Pakistan two years later. Also detained were, again, his fiancé and the couple’s toddler son, and Mehdi Ghezali. Ghezali is a former inmate of the US-operated Guantánamo Bay prison, who was released in 2004.
Also the man arrested in Stockholm in connection to the plot against JyllandsPosten in Copenhagen has a previous record. He was arrested in Pakistan last year and spent 10 days in a Pakistani prison for having entered the country illegally. According to Säpo, the man was involved in the planning of the Copenhagen attack, but decided to remain in Stockholm for reasons as yet unknown.
Helena Benaouda, head of Swedens Muslim Council and mother of the former fiancé of one of the now arrested men commented Friday 31 December on the arrests as follows:
“My attitude is and has always been that crime, all kind of extremism and use of violence or undemocratic means are unacceptable. I believe in an open society where individuals have both rights and responsibilities, where everyone – regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and age are equal and where all should participate. Violent criminal activity and terrorism is an attack against such a society, and against everything I believe in, including my religious faith, Islam. Myself, like everyone else, must take the threat of extremism – including Islamic extremism – in earnest to protect what I believe in. The police investigation will show who is to be held accountable, and the guilty will be punished. My daughter and her children are safe with me – and that is what is most important to me.”