SAPO -- Sweden's security service -- reports that the numbers of persons holding extremist views has grown to the thousands. Most appear to sympathize with radical strains of Islam. SAPO chief Anders Thornberg told Swedish news agency TT on Friday, "We have never seen anything like it," and admitted that Islamic State (ISIS) propaganda is central to the growth of radicalization.
Thornberg said that the numbers of extremists have grown from just a few hundred in recent years. The current situation, he said, is "a historic challenge with extremist environments growing."
According to the agency head, SAPO receives approximately 6,000 pieces of intelligence on extremists every month, which is a significant increase from 2,000 of five years ago. Currently, the threat assessment for the Scandinavian country is holding steady at three on a scale of five.
Sweden was rocked on April 7 when a Muslim man stole a beer delivery truck and drove along a pedestrian mall in Stockholm, mowing down pedestrians. Five innocents were killed, including a girl whose body was cut in half by the truck, and 14 were injured. Sweden hs instituted more rigorous border controls, for example, at the rail link to Denmark, and is discouraging asylum seekers. Swedish authorities are holding an Uzbek man in the killings.
According to Sapo, the largest numbers of extremists are found in Gothenburg, Malmo, Orebro, and Stockholm. Swedish police and security services have received increased funding. Laws have been tightened and further measures, such as video surveillance, are planned. Thornberg said his country faces a whole new world of security challenges because deadly attacks need not have months of planning and preparation. "Today, if you decide to act, you maybe buy two knives or hire a truck and drive into a crowd," he said.
According to PolitiFact, approximately 51,000 of the 163,000 applicants in 2015 were from Syria. Sweden's total population is slightly under 10 million. Asylum applications in 2016 dropped to about 29,000.