Norway presents new intelligence chief

Marie Benedicte Bjørnland, 47, has been named the new head of Norway's domestic intelligence service, PST.

Norway presents new intelligence chief
Justice Minister Grete Faremo welcomes Marie Benedicte Bjørnland to her new post (Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/Scanpix)

Justice Minister Grete Faremo heaped praise on Bjørnland at a Friday press conference for her work as head of the Vestfold police district.

“You have been the chief of one the best run police districts in the country, but now you will take on other important tasks. I am very confident that you are the right person for this job,” said the minister.

A popular police chief, Bjørnland was known during her time in Vestfold for her transparent policies and lively presence on social media site Twitter, an activity she may now have to reconsider.

“I haven’t yet evaluated if I’ll continue to have a Twitter account, we’ll have to discuss that,” she said.

Bjørnland's predecessor in the post, Janne Kristiansen, resigned in January over an alleged breach of confidentiality after she told parliament that Norway had agents operating in Pakistan.

But Bjørnland said she was undeterred by the fact that several of her predecessors had landed in hot water.

"I wouldn't have applied for this job if I'd feared it," she said.

Bjørnland was born in Kristiansand and grew up in Skien and Porsgrunn. After attaining a law degree from the University of Oslo, she went on to hold a number of senior police positions in Tønsberg and, later, Vestfold.

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Norwegian police end emergency carrying of arms

The temporary arming of all police in Norway, ordered after an attack in Kongsberg left five dead, ended on Friday morning. 

Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo.
Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo. Photo by David Hall on Flickr.

The order for all police in Norway to be armed following an attack in Kongsberg last week was lifted on Friday morning. 

The police said in a statement Friday that, based on the information it had received from police security service PST, there was no longer any basis for maintaining the national armament order. 

“Norwegian police are basically unarmed in daily service, with firearms being stored in police vehicles, and police can be armed in connection with specific missions when needed. In that sense, we are now moving to a normal situation,” Tone Vangen, emergency preparedness director for the police, said in a statement

The police had been armed since last Wednesday following the incident in Kongsberg where Danish citizen Espen Andersen Bråthen killed five with an undisclosed sharp object and shot at police with a bow and arrow.

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

Police said earlier this week that the victims were chosen at random. The Danish citizen was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Bråthen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

The 37-year-old had previously announced publicly that he had converted to Islam and police initially reported that there had been fears of radicalisation. 

But police later said that mental illness was to be considered the primary motive for the attack. 

 “As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt said to reporters earlier this week.