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.