22 May 2003


Terror threat a mystery (Aftenposten)

The shock news that al-Qaida had called for Muslims to attack Norwegian targets in Muslim countries came like a bolt from the blue to the Norwegian authorities. Everyone is taking the threat seriously, but many people are wondering if Norway could have been confused with some other country, or if some other misunderstanding lies behind the call. The news prompted a series of urgent meetings between affected government ministries and the National Police Security Service (PST) yesterday. Late yesterday evening the Foreign Ministry was still in conference with representatives for the various ministries to evaluate which security measures should be implemented. According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Karsten Klepsvik, none of Norway’s embassies has so far been closed.

Norway penalized for peace efforts (Dagsavisen)

Experts have no idea why al-Qaida has designated Norway a target for terrorist attack. But several have pointed to the country’s involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process as a possible explanation. In a video recording aired for the first time yesterday, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawarhri, called for attacks on the diplomatic missions belonging to the USA, Britain, Australia and Norway, as well as these countries’ interests, firms and employees. Norwegian companies are now taking steps to ensure the safety of their employees in the Middle East. Jotun is planning to evacuate the families of its staff and increase security at its sites. Telenor, which is represented in several Muslim countries, has initiated measures to protect its employees.

Surprised by terror threats (Verdens Gang)

According to Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, there is no reason for alarm in Norway, despite the terrorist threats against Norwegian targets. “Norwegian citizens abroad, and particularly in certain countries, should increase their level of vigilance. But we always have in place whatever measures we feel are necessary in Norway, and there is no reason to go around feeling afraid,” said Mr Bondevik. He refused to speculate on the reasons behind the threats against Norway. He also denied that the security measures surrounding his own person had been strengthened.

The Norwegian terrorist targets (Dagbladet)

There are 24 embassies and Norwegian companies in Muslim countries that are in al-Qaida’s firing line for terrorist attack. The problem facing the National Police Security Service (PST) and the Minister of Justice is that they do not know how real the threats are. In addition to relying on its own expertise, the PST is in regular contact with what they call cooperating services in friendly countries. Norway has close links with the USA and Britain. There is also reason to assume that the PST is in touch with the fourth country on al-Qaida’s list of terrorist targets, Australia.

US embassy in state of high alert (Verdens Gang)

The US Embassy in Norway has implemented specific and wide-ranging security measures, as a precaution against any possible terrorist action in Oslo in the next few days. From today, the US Embassy in Oslo will be closed to visitors. The moves were prompted by al-Quaida’s threats to carry out terrorist attacks on Norwegian targets, said the US State Department in Washington yesterday evening. In addition, a number of employees have been told not to go into work.

Muslims in shock (Dagsavisen)

The Muslim community in Norway does not understand why our country has been designated a terrorist target. Although they deplore the threat, they fear that many Norwegians will see all Muslims as potential terrorists. “Norway was strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, so I was completely shocked to hear about this. I cannot understand that al-Qaida should have any reason to attack Norway,” said Mohammad Hamdan, leader of the Islamic Council in Norway. Najeeb Naz, chairman of the World Islamic Mission, does not believe there are any Muslims living in Norway who would want to carry out a terrorist attack here. “That is just my opinion, but I represent a religious community of over 5,000 people and I have never come across any such feelings among our members,” said Mr Naz.

Statoil asks for anti-terror help (Dagens Næringsliv)

Statoil announced yesterday that the company would ask for assistance from the National Police Security Service (PST) to meet the threat of terrorist attack issued by al-Qaida. “Responsibility for security lies with the authorities, in the shape of the PST. We will contact them today and follow the advice and instructions we receive,” said Wenche Skorge, head of corporate communications at Statoil. She underlined that Statoil has an emergency response plan which will be implemented if the authorities so recommend. Statoil is particularly vulnerable to terrorist attack because it is the Norwegian company that is, perhaps, most well known internationally, with business activities in many countries throughout the world.

Giske predicts compromise agreement in the Storting (Dagsavisen)

Labour MP Trond Giske believes the Storting’s deliberations regarding the pre-school day-care reform proposal will end in a broad-based compromise agreement. The compromise could revolve around a delay in the introduction of a price cap on nursery fees. Tomorrow, the ruling coalition parties are due to respond to the proposal presented by the parliamentary opposition parties yesterday. It will then become clear whether there is any basis for further negotiation. “Last year, the initiative stalled due to lack of funding. This time, I think the Government sees that the parliamentary majority will force it to allocate enough cash, regardless. For that reason they will probably want to have a say in how that money is to be spent,” said Mr Giske, who is responsible for piloting the measure through the parliamentary process. Committee chairwoman Sonja Sjøli (Con) is optimistic. “I feel that there is a real willingness to negotiate on both sides. The negotiating climate is positive,” she said.

Quiet words to get Devold into Nato top slot (Aftenposten)

She is not officially a candidate and no official campaigning is going on to get Norwegian Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold appointed new Nato Secretary General. Instead, a campaign of quiet words in the right ears will bring her to the fore. Bureaucrats, diplomats and government politicians hate talking about it. Previous experience has taught them the painful lesson that if there is to be the least little hope of getting a Norwegian appointed to the position of Nato Secretary General, the matter must be handled with extreme delicacy. If Ms Devold had been formally launched as a candidate, there would have been a public debate and opposition forces both within Norway and internationally would have had greater opportunity to mobilize.

Labour growing as unemployment rises (Dagsavisen)

The Labour Party has forged ahead of the Socialist Left Party and recovered from its previous catastrophic poll results. Support for the party has grown by a third and is now established at a level higher than that achieved at the last general election. The Labour Party is gaining ground at the same pace as the focus on unemployment intensifies. According to the latest poll, Labour now has 24.7 per cent of the vote. The poll shows that the party is set to achieve better results in this autumn’s local elections than in the general election two years ago. This is a new situation for the party, which has previously done better in general elections than in local ones. The Progress Party is the country’s second most popular party, with the support of 21.9 per cent of the electorate. The Socialist Left Party slides 1.6 percentage points to 19.9 per cent, while the Conservatives gain 1.1 points to end on 15.9 per cent.

Worth Noting

  • As part of the organization’s psychological terror campaign, al-Qaida has put Norway on its hit list because we are an oil-producing country. And Norway has every reason to be concerned, according to one of the world’s leading experts on Islamist terrorist movements, Magnus Ranstorp, at University of St Andrew’s Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, located in Scotland.
  • Mohammad Hamdan, leader of the Islamic Council in Norway, says he is shocked and has asked Muslims to tip off the police if they have any suspicions of potential terrorist attacks.
  • The Government has never refused to allocate additional money to pensioners, insists Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss. But he admits that the way he expressed himself was a little vague.
  • Both the Socialist Left Party and the Progress Party look set to win significantly fewer votes at the local elections this autumn that they would poll in a general election. While 19.9 per cent of voters said that they would vote for the Socialist Left Party if there were a general election, “only” 12.3 per cent say they would give the party their votes at the local elections.
  • An alarming number of reports that Norwegian children living in Spain are being neglected has prompted the Commissioner for Children to call for the setting up of a permanent, pro-active child protection office in Spain. However, according to the Oslo and Akershus County Governor, this would not be a good idea. “We have to be careful not to exaggerate the problem,” said Rune Dahl of the County Governor’s office. He recommends the implementation of a series of smaller, less comprehensive measures.
    (Vårt Land)
  • The National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime and the National Bureau of Crime Investigation are to focus more narrowly on combating serious, organized crime. The Oslo Police District will no longer provide assistance to other police forces nationwide, and will concentrate on fighting crime in the capital itself.
  • Norwegian households are burdened with more debt than at any time in the past decade. In recent years the level of private debt has grown faster than incomes. The Norwegian Central Bank has warned that this situation cannot continue.
  • Nils Marstein, who heads the Central Office of Historic Monuments, is to get his own way with regard to the redevelopment of Oslo’s Bjørvika district. The Oslo City Council has announced its decision to reduce the scale of the skyscrapers to be built in the area, and drop its proposal to relocate its cultural history collection to the middle of the city’s Medieval Park. It is also proposing wider open spaces between the buildings, so that it will still be possible to see Akershus Fortress from both Ladegården and the old royal palace in the Medieval Park. There will also be good views of the fjord.

Today’s comment from Aftenposten

In recent days we have been given plenty of reminders that the machinery of terrorism, manned by suicide fanatics, is both intact and in operation following the war in Iraq. This was hardly unexpected, and it was only the difficulty of concentrating on more than one crisis at a time that forced such threats to take a back seat during the short weeks of war. The statement by one of Osama bin Laden’s associates, calling on Muslims to attack a number of countries, including Norway, comes as a frightening reminder. We can only speculate on the reason why Norway’s name figures on a hit list on which we would have been more than happy not to have appeared. Unfortunately, however, no one can simply shrug off such threats. The way the people responsible for terrorist attacks perceive the value of human life has no place in our familiar moral framework. But the fact that we are incapable of understanding what they are doing and why they are doing it does not mean that we can take these threats lightly. The people who are making them have left no doubt about the fact that they mean business. Although it is impossible to remain unaffected by such plans, we have no alternative but to implement the precautions we feel we can, and try to live and travel as normally as possible. If we were to win the battle against terrorism by using the tactics the terrorists themselves want to force upon us, it would be a hollow victory. And our moral values are so deeply ingrained in most of us that we would find it difficult to perceive such a victory as anything other than an agonizing defeat.