Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget said the government was reacting “med avsky” (with disgust) to the suicide bombing in Stockholm over the weekend. He claimed his ministry staff was working closely with their Swedish counterparts and that the government already was moving forward with anti-terrorism measures.
Storberget told newspaper Dagsavisen, for example, that Norway’s special police intelligence unit PST has received a 50 percent boost in funding and a 30 percent boost in staffing for anti-terrorism operations. “And we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Swedish colleagues on this,” he told reporters on Sunday.
Storberget also used the suicide bombing on a busy shopping street in downtown Stockholm, which killed the bomber but no others, as another reason why the Parliament should go along with an EU directive that would require storage of telecommunications records, to aid police in terrorism investigations.
That issue has split his own government, with two of its three parties refusing to support the so-called “EU data directive” because of privacy concerns. The unusual lack of cooperation from the Socialist Left party and the Center Party has forced Storberget and his Labour Party colleagues to seek support from opposition politicians, several of whom quickly accused the justice minister on Sunday of resorting to scare tactics and using the Stockholm bombing to get the measure passed.
There’s little doubt the bombing, the first of its kind in Scandinavia, has shaken Norwegian officials and disclosed flaws in Sweden’s own anti-terrorism operations. Questions were flying over how the perpetrator, a young Iraqi man living in Sweden who had publicly revealed increasing radicalism, had evaded police attention.
Norway’s ambassador to Sweden, veteran diplomat Anna K Lund, said Sweden was now “at a crossroads” and that the bombing was viewed as “very dramatic.” Lund told newspaper Aftenposten, however, that there are differences between Swedish and Norwegian society and Sweden has experienced many more dramatic incidents than Norway.
Brynjar Lia, a researcher for the defense ministry, noted that Norwegian police have invested heavily in preventative measures, including constant dialogue with Islamic groups in Norway and with individuals. He also noted that Sweden is twice Norway’s size in terms of population, suggesting that extremists can have more room to operate.
Norwegian police weren’t boosting the terrorism threat level in response to the Stockholm bombing, and holiday shoppers polled at random in downtown Oslo weren’t letting themselves be scared off. Tore Bjørgo, another terrorism researcher in Oslo, told Dagsavisen the terrorists’ major goal is to spread fear, “and the question is whether we’ll allow ourselves to be steered by that.”