STOCKHOLM – The suicide bomber who blew himself up on a busy pedestrian street in Sweden was not on a list of 200 radical Islamists that the country's security service had compiled, officials said Wednesday.
In a report detailing the extent of extremist Islamist networks in Sweden, ordered months before Saturday's near-massacre in downtown Stockholm, the SAPO agency downplayed the risk of terror attacks in the Nordic country.
Activity among radicalized Muslims in Sweden is primarily directed toward supporting militants in other countries, including Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it said.
"After Saturday's attempted attack, we can see that it also presents a serious threat against people in Sweden," Malena Rembe, chief analyst at SAPO's counterterrorism unit, added at a news conference.
Taimour Abdulwahab, an Iraqi-born Swede, killed himself and injured two people Saturday when a bomb he was wearing exploded on a pedestrian street in downtown Stockholm.
An audio file sent shortly before the blast from his cell phone referred to Sweden's military presence in Afghanistan and an image by a Swedish artist that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, enraging many Muslims.
Abdulwahab spent much of the past decade in Britain and appears to have been radicalized there. Rembe said he was not among the roughly 200 people that SAPO said they had identified as active in radical Islamist networks in Sweden.
SAPO's report was ordered by the government in February amid concerns that Swedish authorities didn't have a good handle on the spread of extremism in Muslim immigrant communities. SAPO's conclusions were largely based on material from 2009, and didn't address the suicide bombing over the weekend.
"Violence-promoting Islamist extremism" should not be underestimated, the report said, but it's "currently not a threat to the fundamental structures of society, Sweden's democratic system or central government."
It could, however, "constitute a threat to both individuals and groups, above all in other countries," the report said.
Rembe said about 30 people have left Sweden in the past five years to join Islamist militants in Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She said the skills they learn abroad could make them dangerous when — and if — they return to Sweden.
Even though the report failed to predict an attack like Saturday's suicide bombing, Rembe said that didn't mean SAPO had underestimated the threat of terrorism.
She stressed that the report was based on information from last year when there were no concrete threats of attacks in Sweden. "Now there is, in 2010 there is," she told The Associated Press.
Sweden raised its terror alert from low to elevated earlier this year, citing "a shift in activities" among Swedish-based groups that could be plotting attacks. Authorities have said the move was not related to Abdulwahab.
Swedish authorities were investigating whether Abdulwahab acted alone or had ties to al-Qaida or other groups.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the government has obtained confessions from captured insurgents who claim that the botched bombing was among suicide plots planned by al-Qaida in the U.S. and Europe during the Christmas season.