23 May 2003


Police chief compares situation to aftermath of September 11 (Aftenposten) 

Ingelin Killengreen, head of Norway’s Police Directorate, has said that all threats like those that have now been made against Norway must be taken seriously. “We have now reintroduced the emergency preparedness measures we put in place after the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September 2001,” she said, adding that this demonstrates the seriousness of the situation at home and the level of threat that has been aimed at Norway. Ms Killengreen was at pains to point out, though, that the emergency preparedness measures now being put in place would not affect ordinary people’s everyday lives, but were aimed at protecting other countries’ interests in Norway. Of these, the various embassies were the most obvious examples.

Krekar admits al-Qaida meeting (Dagsavisen)

Mullah Krekar admits that he has met the man who is now threatening Norway. “Krekar has explained that he met al-Zawahri once in Peshawar in 1988. They were both attending Friday prayers, and afterwards everyone in the mosque shook hands with each other,” said Krekar’s attorney, Brynjar Meling. He claims that it is “typical” of the National Police Security Service (PST) to have photographs in their possession which point to a link between his client and the man seen by many to be the brains behind Osama bin Laden, without making any evidence they may have available to Krekar’s attorney.

Al-Qaida phone numbers could be Krekar’s undoing (Aftenposten)

It is being alleged that when he was arrested Mullah Krekar had the telephone numbers of two people suspected of having links with al-Qaida. The National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime has confirmed that they have received new information in connection with the case, which has prompted them to contact the Italian police. Krekar himself does not deny that he could be the reason for the terrorist threats that were recently levelled at Norway or that al-Qaida could be using him as a symbol. “Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg has already used Mullah Krekar as a symbol to show her drive and determination, Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen has used him as a symbol to justify his immigration policy, and the USA in connection with the Iraq war. If al-Qaida is also now using him as a symbol, it is just one more example in a long line,” said Krekar’s attorney, Brynjar Meling.

Good-bye to peace (Dagbladet)

The Norwegian National Police Security Service (PST) last night published its analysis of the terrorist threat facing Norway. According to the PST, it is highly unlikely that Norway was mentioned in the video-taped speech by accident or by mistake, and the security service has therefore raised their assessment of the potential threat to Norway to a higher level. The Government’s emergency preparedness committee met yesterday to review the threat to Norway and Norwegian targets. Government experts fear that a terrorist attack on Norwegian targets has already been planned, and that the videotaped broadcast on Wednesday afternoon was in effect giving the order to attack.

Call for separate anti-terrorism ministry (Dagsavisen)

In 2000, the Norwegian Commission on the Vulnerability of Society, which evaluated the country’s preparedness to tackle incidents of sabotage, terrorism and crime, proposed the creation of a separate government ministry with responsibility for civilian security. The commission was chaired by former prime minister Kåre Willoch, who still believes the creation of such a ministry is necessary. “I maintain that view, even though I do not want to link it directly to the threats that al-Qaida have recently made,” he said. The Government rejected the need for a separate ministry.

Foreign Ministry tightens security (Aftenposten)

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry last night issued travel guidelines for Norwegians planning to visit countries which could be the target for terrorist attacks. The new guidelines come in addition to existing advice and recommendations for a large number of countries. This time, the Foreign Ministry has a new and more serious assessment of the situation in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as Afghanistan. “These guidelines are based on the sum total of information we have received. We have no reason to believe that specific targets in these countries are particularly vulnerable to terrorist attack,” said ministry spokesman Karsten Klepsvik.

Norwegian forces prepare to test offensive skills (Verdens Gang)

The day after Norway was threatened with the prospect of terrorist attack, Norwegian forces trained with live ammunition at the Hjerkinn firing range ahead of an examination to test their offensive skills. During the summer months, Norwegian army units will be preparing themselves for operations in Iraq. On Monday, soldiers from the Telemark Battalion will be tested on their offensive skills. The Norwegian army’s rapid deployment force (FIST-H) will be ready for international operations by 1 July.

Army used environmental toxin during mountain exercise (Nationen)

Large quantities of the deadly toxin white phosphorous were yesterday launched over the Hjerkinn firing range. One gram of the substance is enough to kill ten people. The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature has accused the army of toying with the environment, since the melting snow in the area increases the chance of the toxin finding its way into the soil and river systems. “The Armed Forces have no alternative when it comes to creating realistic smoke conditions during exercises. And the targets were located on hard, bare ground,” said Odd Erik Martinsen, leader of the Norwegian Defence Estates Agency’s reclamation project at Hjerkinn.

Southeastern region benefits from new electoral law (Dagsavisen)

The country’s densely populated counties will benefit the most from the new electoral legislation adopted by the Storting. Akershus County will get an additional four new permanent MPs, while Oslo gets two more. After a lengthy period of wrangling in the Storting, the Progress Party yesterday ensured a majority in favour of a new electoral law. The number of MPs will increase, and the distribution of seats between the counties will be changed. The Storting will expand from today’s 165 MPs to 169. The current system has 157 seats distributed on a permanent basis among the various counties, while 8 seats are allocated after the election on the basis of the votes cast. In future, there will be 150 geographically determined seats and 19 “floating” seats, one for each county.

Worth Noting

  • The Civil Aviation Authority is working overtime to secure Norway’s airports against the threat of terrorist attack. The airlines SAS and Braathens are now installing reinforced cockpit doors in their aircraft.
  • Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen has said that the threat of terrorist attack which has been aimed at Norway should not lead to increased hostility to the immigrant community. “The threat must not create a general fear of Muslim people,” he said.
  • “al-Qaida knows that it is doing, and has not confused Norway with Denmark. They are not stupid or ignorant. They are acting rationally,” said one of the world’s leading experts on Islamist terrorism, the French professor François Burgat.
  • The threat of terrorism makes us frightened, insecure and suspicious. Nevertheless, it is something we will have to live with in the time ahead, say the experts. In the long term, the fear of terrorism could generate a more controlling society which exerts a greater level of surveillance on its citizens.
  • Labour MP Trond Giske and the other opposition party MPs behind the pre-school day-care reform package have been put under massive pressure by their fellow party local councillors. Senior local government representatives from the Labour Party, Socialist Left Party and Centre Party have already been to the Storting and recommended the Government’s pre-school day-care proposal rather than the opposition parties’ scheme.
    (Verdens Gang)
  • The Norwegian Ornithological Society has named the common sparrow as the 2003 Bird of the Year. Through this award, the society hopes to increase public awareness of the common sparrow. “This is a well-known and well-loved bird species in most of the country, that can be seen both in summer and winter,” writes the society, which is concerned that the species is falling in numbers and is not so widespread as it has been previously.

Today’s comment from Verdens Gang

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was out and about last week, taking care of Norway’s international political interests, when the Government presented its revised national budget. He was obviously so busy that he had quite forgotten what he and his government had previously agreed on. Particularly when it came to pensioners and the parliamentary resolution ordering the Government to plug the pensions gap left over from last June’s pensions increase before this year’s adjustment takes place. For what did the PM say shortly after his return home? No less than this: “A debate has arisen in which doubts have been sown as to whether the Government will ensure that pensioners receive the money they have owing to them from the adjustment in 2002, which is something the Storting has also voted in favour of. We intend to sweep away those doubts.” Good heavens, Mr Bondevik, no one else apart from the Government itself and, in particular, Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss have done anything at all to prompt such doubts. In its revised national budget, the Government lists four parliamentary resolutions that it wants overturned. The resolution regarding pensions increases is one of them. And Mr Foss was not pulling his punches when he defended the Government’s proposal. When the Government has asked for people to show moderation during this year’s wage negotiations, it is important that this also applies to pensioners and the disabled. Anyway, the Finance Minister added, it was not the ruling coalition parties that had voted through the parliamentary resolution on pensions, so they could not be accused of breaking any promises – whatever he might have meant by that! It could just as easily be interpreted as an innovation in the parliamentary rules governing the relationship between the Storting and the Government. Labour’s Bjarne Håkon Hanssen was quite right in saying that the Government’s u-turn was due to the fact that it swiftly realized it was facing a humiliating political defeat. It would not have been terribly smart to take up arms against both a parliamentary majority and a million pensioners and disability benefit claimants.