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Islamic militants from Sweden fund themselves through welfare benefits, new report reveals

(Reuters/Rodi Said)A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter stands near what he said was Islamic State fighters held prisoners by them, north of Raqqa city, Syria.

A new report has found that individuals who traveled from Sweden to Syria and Iraq in order to join extremist groups have supported themselves through state benefits.

The report, published by the Swedish National Defense University on behalf of the Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA), has revealed that a majority of individuals who joined groups such as the Islamic State between 2013 and 2016 are still receiving living allowances, child benefits, maintenance support and parental benefits while abroad.

According to Russia Today, the mail of the potential jihadis is handled by other people to make it look as if they are still at home.

"This is of course totally unacceptable. No state funds should be used for anything even close to terrorism," said Anna Ekstrom, the Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education.

"We need to get a hold of this issue immediately. We are preparing now to go to parliament and ensure that the government gets the opportunity to stop the payout of such large sums at once," she continued.

Tax authorities have noted that payday loans have been used to fund trips to Syria and Iraq. However, it became less common since 2015, maybe because the recipients intended to return to Sweden.

Police have also reported that the jihadis are using student loans to fund themselves by pretending to study overseas and receive large sums from the government.

One of the known cases in which Sweden paid for someone to join an extremist group was that of Abdul Samad al Swedi, also known as Michael Skramo, who fled with his wife and four children to Syria in 2014. Over the course of eight months, he received $5,000 in benefits while appearing in ISIS propaganda videos.

The 2016 annual report released by the Swedish Security Service has found that about 300 individuals have traveled to Iraq and Syria from Sweden to join groups like ISIS or the Al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front. Most of the men, who are between the ages of 18 and 30, typically have little to no income, and over half have criminal records.

According to the report, a total of 44 of these men has already been killed while 135 have returned to Sweden as of 2016.

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