A Tunisian terrorist who gunned down two Swedish football fans and wounded another in Brussels earlier this week had earlier sought asylum in Norway along with other European countries. Norway joined calls to better protect borders and support Sweden during a “very difficult time” for its neighbour.
“Erdogan! Sweden needs your support now,” read the headline on the lead editorial in Norway’s biggest newspaper, Aftenposten, on Wednesday. The paper referred to how Turkey’s authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to drag out confirmation of Sweden’s membership in NATO, fails to acknowledge Sweden’s commitment to freedom of expression (which has prevented the country from banning Koran burnings that allegedly provoked the terrorist) and is even believed to have harboured a drug dealer who’s behind recent gang warfare in Sweden that has led to multiple deaths and destruction.
Now Sweden has emerged as a target of the terrorism Turkey and other European allies claim to condemn. The terrorist, identified as Abdelsalem Lassoued and ultimately shot and killed by Belgian police, had fled prison in Tunisia in 2011, went first to Italy, then to Norway, back to Italy and on to Sweden while his applications for asylum were rejected. A relative in Oslo told state broadcaster NRK that he was “a completely different person” while living in Oslo 12 years ago, “very kind and festive” and not especially religious. He apparently became radicalized in later years, also after he was convicted of narcotics possession and was ultimately expelled from Sweden for 10 years in 2012.
Aftenposten, along with several Norwegian politicians and commentators, stressed how Sweden has taken in many immigrants from Muslim countries over the years and is among the least anti-Islamic countries in Europe. As the terror threat level rose this week, “Sweden needs all the help and support the country can get from friends and allies in Europe,” editorialized Aftenposten, including Turkey, Hungary and all NATO allies.