U.S. Designates Largest Neo-Nazi Group in Sweden as Terrorist Organization

U.S. Designates Largest Neo-Nazi Group in Sweden as Terrorist Organization

The State Department on Friday designated the largest neo-Nazi group in Sweden and its leaders as terrorists, only the second time it has applied the label to a white supremacist group known for a long history of violence.

The decision comes as the group, the Nordic Resistance Movement, foments violence online and forges connections with like-minded organizations and people in the United States, officials said. Those actions have incited concerns among federal law enforcement officials responsible for thwarting domestic terrorism.

“The group’s members and leaders have carried out violent attacks against political opponents, protesters, journalists and other perceived adversaries,” the State Department said in a statement.

The Biden administration said the designations were part of a broader effort to crack down on white extremists. In June 2021, the administration unveiled its strategy for countering domestic terrorism, stating that addressing the threat demanded “a multifaceted response across the federal government and beyond.”

The designation gives the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control the ability to block any American property or assets belonging to the group. It also bars Americans from financial dealings with the organization and makes it easier to ban its members from traveling to the United States.

Still, Mary McCord, a former top Justice Department official, said that even though the designation was an important move, the United States could have gone a step further and identified the group as what is known as a foreign terrorist organization.

“This is an important and welcome measure to counter transnational white supremacy, but does not trigger the material support statute, one of the government’s most potent tools against foreign terrorist organizations,” she said.

The Nordic Resistance Movement was founded in 1997 and has branches in Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, where it has been banned since 2020, the State Department said. The group’s goal is to replace the Nordic democracies with a “united ethnic Nordic nation.”

The Anti-Defamation League said the group stood apart from others in the region and in Europe in part because of its “fanatical Nazi ideology, coupled with a declared goal of revolution by any means necessary.”

The group’s violent ideology appeared to be on display hours earlier, when a neo-Nazi with suspected ties to the group stabbed a 12-year-old in Finland at a shopping center, according to the local news media. The child was said to have a foreign background.

Finland banned the group in 2020 after a member assaulted a man during a 2016 demonstration. The man later died of his injuries.

This year, masked members of the group attacked a migrant camp in northern Stockholm.

On Friday, the State Department singled out three members of the Nordic Resistance Movement: Tor Fredrik Vejdeland, the leader of the group; Par Oberg, a member of the group’s national council who serves as head of its parliamentary branch; and Leif Robert Eklund, a member of the group’s national council and the coordinator of its various divisions in Sweden.

While former President Donald J. Trump has been accused of ignoring the threat of domestic terrorism, his administration added that threat to its National Strategy for Counterterrorism.

And in 2020, the Trump administration designated the Russian Imperial Movement, an ultranationalist group, as a terrorist organization, the first time the United States had done so against a white supremacist group.

The group has helped support neo-Nazi organizations in Scandinavia, which aligns with the Russian government’s broader pattern of stoking internal divisions, including along racial lines, and sow chaos in Western democracies.

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