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Sweden gave 'protected identities' to returning ISIS fighters, report claims

(Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)FILE PHOTO - A rebel fighter takes away a flag that belonged to Islamic State militants in Akhtarin village, after rebel fighters advanced in the area, in northern Aleppo Governorate, Syria, October 7, 2016.

The Swedish government has welcomed hundreds of Islamic State militants who returned from Iraq and Syria and gave them "protected identities" to keep locals from finding out who they are, according to a report.

The Swedish magazine Expressen reported in late June that it has tracked as many as 150 ISIS fighters who have quietly returned to Sweden.

One returnee interviewed by the publication was 27-year-old Walad Ali Yousef, who complained that he had difficulty finding a job. "I am looking for many jobs but can not get one because my pictures are out there," he said, according to Arutz Sheva.

Yousef, who hails from Malmo, traveled to the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria in 2014 to join ISIS. He has sent pictures of himself posing with Kalashnikov rifles in Syria in an attempt to encourage his friends in Sweden to join the militants.

Bherlin Dequilla Gildo, who posted images of himself posing with dead bodies in 2012, has also been given an entirely new identity after he returned to Sweden. The 39-year-old former ISIS fighter has reportedly participated directly in the killings of Syrian regime soldiers.

About 100 Swedes are still believed to be fighting for ISIS in the Middle East. Some have feared that those Swedes will return home when Kurdish troops start pushing further into Raqqa.

Alice Bah Kuhnke, the Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, has suggested that Swedes who fought for radical Islamist groups in the Middle East should be welcomed back and reintegrated into society. But she said that the government has no idea how many of the returnees are still radicalized compared to those who left because they had become disillusioned with Islamist beliefs.

Terror expert Magnus Ranstorp noted that "the really dangerous ones have not come back yet."

"The vast majority may not do anything, but they are still a danger to the authorities and it must be managed. It is important for the police to be able to prioritise this area so that they do not become dangerous to society," he added.

In July, Sweden's security police Säpo noted that there are around 3,000 violent extremists in the country, and about 2,000 of those have Islamist motives.

Th agency has previously stated that around 300 people from Sweden are known to have traveled to the Middle East to join groups such as ISIS In 2012. Around 50 Swedes are said to have died while fighting abroad. A report from the agency in 2010 estimated the number of violent Islamist extremists in Sweden at 200.

Meanwhile, an estimated 8,000 Christian asylum seekers are believed to be in hiding in Sweden because they face deportation.

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