STOCKHOLM/MOGADISHU/NEW YORK (Rixstep) — Two Swedes arraigned in a New York court 21 December after being arrested in Djibouti were being followed by Swedish security since they made their way to Somalia four years ago, according to reporter Per Nygren of GP.se.
'Abu Zaid' was last resident in Järfälla (Jakobsberg) north of Stockholm, came to Sweden at eight years of age, and formally emigrated in December 2009.
'Ismail' is registered as a resident of Spånga, also a northern suburb of Stockholm, came to Sweden at seven years of age, and made his trip to Somalia 2 December 2009.
Both were thought to be with the Al-Shabaab group, categorised by the US as a terrorist organisation.
Al-Shabaab posted a video online in November 2010 featuring 'Abu Zaid' and filmed in an athletic stadium in the capital city. 'Zaid' is dressed in a blue shirt and has a checkered shawl around his head, and speaks into the camera with a mastery of the Swedish language 'only spoken by people who've been raised in Sweden', writes Nygren. 'Zaid' calls on his 'brothers and sisters in Sweden and other parts of the world' to travel to Somalia and take part in the 'holy war'.
'Zaid' then raises a finger and speaks directly to 'that dog Lars Vilks who made the cartoons of the prophet':
'Whenever it happens, if not today, if not tomorrow, know that we've not forgot what you've done. We will get you! And what you can expect is this: beheading!'
'Zaid' raises his finger and draws it across his throat.
Swedish security thought they could identify 'Abu Zaid'. Deputy head prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnström at the department for security cases decided 29 November 2010 to being a preliminary investigation of 'Abu Zaid'. That investigation was closed 7 August last year after being open one year and nine months.
'There is no longer any reason to complete the investigation. The crime was committed abroad. There are no means of obtaining international legal aid', Qvarnström wrote in her report.
But by then both 'Abu Zaid' and 'Ismail' had already been arrested and imprisoned in Djibouti.
Both 'Abu Zaid' and 'Ismail' had been involved with Al-Shabaab for several years. They were caught on their way to Yemen. Their relatives back home in Sweden insist they'd left Al-Shabaab and were on their way home.
The 'dropouts' were interrogated by FBI agents in Djibouti, and according to the one of them, the FBI were waiting only for the green light from Sweden to take them to the US.
Swedish security discovered the two were in Djibouti, informed prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnström, and sent on the materials they'd accumulated. Qvarnström ruled on 17 August to not begin a new preliminary investigation with the motivation 'there is no reason to assume a crime against the state has been committed'.
Qvarnström's two rulings on the two police investigations came within a ten day period.
And because the Somali Swedes were no longer under suspicion, they weren't sent to Sweden. All that remained was for Djibouti to rule on the request of the FBI.
'Was it mere coincidence that a decision was made to not open an investigation right when the 'suspects' could have been taken to Sweden for questioning?' asked reporter Nygren of prosecutor Qvarnström.
'Every decision is based on its own unique circumstances', replied Qvarnström who insists the two decisions were in no way connected with the arrests in Djibouti.
But Gösta Hultén, spokesperson for the organisation Charta 2008, is critical that Sweden didn't do more to bring the two prisoners home.
'I don't know precisely when they were arrested in Djibouti. But if it was already known that they'd been arrested when Qvarnström ruled to not open the investigation, one has to wonder if there's a connection.'
Both 'Abu Zaid' and 'Ismail' have been under Swedish surveillance since leaving Sweden for Somalia four years ago. They're also found mentioned in a memo from security and found in wiretapped phone conversations which were a part of the prosecution of two youths who in December 2010 were sentenced to four years prison for incitement to terrorist crimes by a lower court, only to be acquitted by a high court.