Al-Qaeda trainee living on benefits: report

A 33-year-old Norwegian suspected of receiving terrorist training from an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has continued to receive welfare benefits for the duration of his stay in the Middle Eastern country, a newspaper said.

Registered as unemployed since 2008, the Muslim convert wanted by a host of international intelligence agencies has been paid some 600 kroner ($100) a day by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service (NAV) even since leaving Norway for Yemen more than six months ago, newspaper Dagbladet reports.

The welfare service again rubber-stamped the man's payments as recently as three weeks ago, despite rules requiring a recipient of benefits to inform NAV of any trips abroad.

Until 2007, the man worked at a children’s daycare centre in Oslo. Since then, his only work-related income has come from selling perfume at the weekends at a flea market in the capital’s Grønland district, Dagbladet said.

According to broadcaster NRK, the police first became aware of the 33-year-old in 2009 when a concerned family member reported that he had been involved in violent street battles.

The clashes mainly saw immigrants face off against the police. The 33-year-old does not have an immigrant background but appears to have become increasingly radicalized after converting to Islam in 2008.

His religious conversion came after he married the daughter of a diplomat from a North African country, Dagbladet said. He then underwent a change of lifestyle, giving up alcohol and breaking off almost all contact with his earlier friends.

When younger, he associated with the far-left Blitz group, Dagbladet said. He does not have a criminal record, a fact that – combined with his Norwegian appearance – adds to his attractiveness to Al-Qaeda as a potential terrorist who could avoid detection in Western countries.

Norwegian police meanwhile have expressed major frustration at politicians’ failure to make it an offence under Norwegian law to participate in terrorist training camps.

In the absence of such a law, Norwegian security officials are powerless to arrest the man or demand his extradition from Yemen, where he is still believed to be staying more than six months after his arrival in the capital Sanaa.

The Sunday Times said Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had recruited the Norwegian Muslim convert and given him terrorist training in Yemen, and that the group were believed to have selected a US passenger jet as a target.

"The Norwegian recruit goes under the Islamic name of Muslim Abu Abdurrahman," the newspaper said.

Sources from three European intelligence agencies told The Associated Press, which broke the story, that the man was “operational” and ready to strike.

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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.