“We believe that some of the Norwegians in Isil [Isis] have risen to middle-management functions,” Lieutenant General Kjell Grandhagen, head of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, told Dagbladet newspaper in an interview published on Thursday.
The most prominent Norwegian Isis commander, Bastian Vasquez, a Norwegian Chilean from Bærum, outside Oslo, was reportedly killed in the autumn. But Grandhagen said several others had also been given senior ranks in the organisation.
“There are still several Norwegians who hold leadership positions in Isil,” Grandhagen told the paper. Among then is a Norwegian Eritrean from Skien, who was also last summer reported to have become an Isis commander.
Many Norwegians fighting for Isis were first radicalised by the Profetens Ummah group, which is centred around Østfold, Vestfold and Telemark, near Oslo.
According to Grandhagen, Isis has been shaken by the recent loss of the border town of Kobani, where they were defeated by Kurdish Peshmerga forces. However, he didn't think that such reversals yet signalled the beginning of the end for the organisation.
“We see an Isis… which is impaired in some areas and must change its tactical concept to adapt to the situation,” Grandhagen said. “But we have no faith in those who think that this is an organisation that will let itself be defeated militarily in the near future. They have all the qualities needed to stand militarily for a long time, both in the areas where they reside and as a base for international terrorism.”
The Norwegian Intelligence Service estimates that there are now 150 Norwegians fighting in Syria and Iraq.