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Sweden to tighten terror laws, still on high alert

Sweden's Interior Minister Anders Ygeman speaks in Stockholm November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden said on Thursday it would tighten its terror laws to make it illegal to travel abroad to fight and stamp down passport abuse in the wake of the recent attacks in Paris and a heightened level of security in the Nordic country.

The measures were agreed between the minority Social Democrat-led government and the opposition, with the exception of the Left Party and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

“In a time of concern and terror, it is even more important that Sweden can show a broad unity over measures to ensure order, safety and security against the threat of terrorism,” Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman told a news conference.

Security police (SAPO) said earlier this year around 300 Swedes had traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight in groups linked to al Qaeda or Islamic State, of whom around 35 had been killed. Around 80 had returned to Sweden.

Measures include making it a criminal offense to organize, recruit and finance travel with the purpose of fighting abroad.

The government will tighten rules on Swedish passports after reports of widespread abuse of supposedly “lost” ID. Citizens will be limited to three passports every five years and rules over temporary passports will be tightened. Children will be forced to get new passports more often.

Sweden will also look at expanding powers of data surveillance and ways to increase cooperation between authorities such as the police and the Swedish Tax Agency to uncover terrorist financing.

Most of the new measures had been outlined already in August.

The country remains at the next highest level of national alert after what police said was a credible threat of an attack in November.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard