Islamists main threat to Norway: intelligence

Radical Islamists pose the biggest threat to Norway even though it was a right-wing extremist who carried out the twin attacks last July that killed 77 people, Norwegian intelligence service PST said on Tuesday.

Islamists main threat to Norway: intelligence
Photo: Terje Bendiksby/Scanpix

"The threat associated with these groups is worrying today," PST chief Janne Kristiansen said as she presented the agency's annual threat assessment report.

"In recent years, we have seen that these are people who grew up in Norway and were radicalised and who consider Norway and the Norwegian society the enemy," she explained.

The number of Islamic extremists in Norway remains small, but their ranks could expand and they have become ever more operational, according to PST, pointing to a growing trend of extremist youths going to training camps in conflict areas before returning to the Scandinavian country.

The threat from right-wing extremist groups meanwhile remains unchanged, according to the intelligence agency, which stressed that this movement would continue to count few followers in 2012.

"The number of violent right-wing extremists in Norway is still low. Attempts to actively recruit to the anti-Muslim movements have failed so far," Kristiansen said.

On July 22nd, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who claimed to be on a crusade against multi-culturalism and the "Muslim invasion" of Europe, set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people.

He then went to Utøya island, some 40 kilometres north-west of Oslo, and, dressed as a police officer, spent more than an hour methodically shooting and killing another 69 people, mainly teenagers, attending a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labour Party's youth wing.

"We are worried about (possible) copycats," meaning people who might want to imitate Behring Breivik, Kristiansen told national public broadcaster NRK.

"After July 22nd, we have seen an increase in the number of threats against several members of the authorities and against political parties," she said.

"We do not know if this will continue, but several elements, like the focus on Behring Breivik's upcoming trial, suggest that this will not change immediately," she added.

Behring Breivik, who is being held in the high security Ila prison near Oslo pending the start of his trial on April 16th, most likely acted alone, according to police.

Two psychiatric experts concluded after an initial evaluation that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was therefore criminally insane, but an Oslo court has ordered a second probe to help determine whether he should be sentenced to prison or receive treatment in a closed psychiatric ward.

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Kongsberg attacker killed victims with ‘sharp object’

Norwegian police said Monday that the five victims of last week's attack were killed by a "sharp object" used by the suspect, not a bow and arrows.

The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident.
The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen on Flickr.

“At some point he discarded or lost his bow and arrows,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters.

He said that during the attack on Wednesday the suspect killed “five people with a sharp object both in private addresses and in public spaces”.

Police, who had previously said that the suspect Espen Andersen Brathen was armed with a bow and arrows and two other weapons, did not specify the nature of the sharp weapons, adding that they were still interviewing witnesses.

“Everything points to the victims being selected at random,” Omholt said.

According to the police, more than 10 people were also shot at with arrows at the start of the attack, but none were killed with this weapon.

READ MORE: Norway police query Kongsberg attacker’s Muslim faith

During police questioning, Brathen has confessed to the killings and to wounding three others.

The 37-year-old Danish citizen has announced publicly that he is a convert to Islam and initially police reported that there had been fears of radicalisation.

He is however being kept in a medical facility pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” Omholt added.

On Saturday, police announced the identities of the five victims, four women and one man: Andrea Meyer, 52, Hanne Merethe Englund, 56, Liv Berit Borge, 75, Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75 and Gun Marith Madsen, 78.