Sweden warns country facing biggest threat after Brussels shooting

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson says Europe cannot be ‘naive’ after killing of two Swedes in Belgian capital.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has called on the European Union to bolster its border controls and internal security [TT News Agency/Fredrik Sandberg via Reuters]

Sweden’s prime minister has warned that his country is facing the biggest threat in its modern history after a gunman in Brussels killed two Swedes in an attack that authorities are investigating as terrorism.

“Sweden has in modern times never been under as big a threat as now,” Ulf Kristersson told reporters on Tuesday.

Kristersson said Sweden and the European Union needed to bolster their borders and internal security to prevent dangerous individuals from staying in the bloc.

“Every indication is that this is a terror attack, targeting Sweden and Swedish citizens, just because they are Swedes,” he said, adding that the region “can’t be naive.”

Two Swedes were shot dead in Brussels and another was wounded on Monday night as Belgium hosted Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifying football match.

The accused gunman, a 45-year-old Tunisian national, was shot dead by Belgian police on Tuesday.

Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said the suspect was living in the country illegally and was known to Belgian police in connection with people smuggling.

A man who identified himself as a member of the armed group ISIL (ISIS) earlier posted a video of himself claiming responsibility for the attack.

A police car is parked near the house in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels
Belgian police shot dead a 45-year-old Tunisian national suspected of killing two Swedes on Monday [File: John Thys/ AFP]

In August, the Swedish Security Service raised its threat level to four on a scale of five after a series of Quran burnings across Sweden that made it a “prioritised target”.

Kristersson’s comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron warned of the return of “Islamist terrorism” in Europe and Italian authorities arrested two men suspected of financing ISIL.

“Sadly we saw it yesterday in Brussels: all European states are vulnerable and there is in fact a return of this Islamist terrorism, and we all are vulnerable,” Macron said during a visit to Albania on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Italy, police arrested two men in Milan suspected of helping finance ISIL and spreading propaganda online.

Milan’s Chief Prosecutor Marcello Viola said the men had “sworn an oath of membership and loyalty”.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s two deputies, Antonio Tajani and Matteo Salvini, hailed the arrests, and Tajani promised a “hard line against terrorism”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies