A businessman in his fifties and his nephew, both Kurdish Shiites living in Sweden who traveled to Kirkuk in northern Iraq to meet relatives, have been kidnapped and later appeared to have been executed.
A propaganda film posted by Daesh* has shown two men from Sweden executed by jihadis. The two men have been identified with the help of relatives and friends who contacted the Expressen daily newspaper.
According to Swedish media, the victims were a businessman aged about 50 and his nephew in his twenties, who left Sweden in December last year to visit the city of Kirkuk to meet relatives. At around Christmas they were kidnapped. Later, a video emerged of the two kneeling men being executed, according to the media outlet. One of them was purportedly shot in the head with an automatic rifle, the other one with a pistol.
Both men were Kurdish Shiites. According to their friends, both of them were Swedish citizens, whereas Expressen has reported that at least one of them was.
According to the translation of the Daesh video made by Expressen, the men were accused of belonging to a Shia militia. However, there is no evidence to support this claim. In the video, the execution is also claimed to be "revenge" for the city of Kirkuk being under Shia rule. A friend of the victims' family has claimed that the sole reason for the murder of the two men is that they both were Shiites.
The family reportedly had contact with the kidnappers, who demanded ransom. However, the family never got to know who they were or whether the kidnapped men were still alive.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry has stated it was familiar with the case and was working with relevant authorities, such as the police. The Security Police have claimed to be working to verify the film's authenticity, national broadcaster SVT reported.
Senior terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp of the National Defense College said he was also familiar with the video and deemed it to be authentic.
Ranstorp told SVT that the case was "extremely rare" and "most likely a first time" featuring Swedish citizens. At the same time, he conceded that the approach was not new, as Daesh has been carrying out kidnappings and broadcasting execution videos for propaganda purposes for a long time.
A Swedish Iraqi citizen in his 60s was previously executed in Iraq in December 2017. The man was later was suspected of being a Daesh supporter and was hanged alongside 37 other suspected terrorists.
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Although Daesh has been seriously weakened in Iraq and Syria in recent years, the terrorists still constitute a threat, explained Ranstorp. Furthermore, they have mushroomed into other parts of the world and continue to spread their ideology on the Internet.
"We shall not disregard Daesh and these forces, they are still very strong. They have created virtual tentacles, including in Sweden," Ranstorp concluded.