UPDATED: The French government confirmed on Tuesday that Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, the Norwegian black metal musician and right-wing extremist who’s been convicted of both murder and setting fire to churches, was arrested in France on Tuesday. He’s suspected of planning a major terrorist attack, just a week before the second anniversary of the attacks carried out by another right-wing extremist in Norway.
French TV station RTL and the French newspaper Le Monde reported that Vikernes was arrested in the town of Salon-la Tour in Correze. Vikernes, who was released from prison in Norway in 2009 after serving 16 years of a 21-year term for murder and arson, was said to be living on a farm with his wife and children. French police were in the process of searching the farm.
“This person, who has close ties to the neo-Nazi movement, poses a potential threat to society, which he has shown through his expressions on the Internet,” said government minister Manuel Valls, according to Le Monde. Vikernes is also known to have published openly anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner statements on the Internet.
French news bureau AFP reported that Vikernes had been under police surveillance for many years, but it was only when his wife acquired weapons that police started a formal investigation. She was also arrested on Tuesday, and Valls said investigators were probing how the weapons were acquired and for what purpose.
French media have reported that she’s a member of a rifle club and therefore can legally possess up to four firearms. Police reportedly found five during their raid on the couple’s farm on Tuesday.
Norwegian authorities ‘can’t comment’
A spokeswoman for Norway’s own police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) told Norwegian media that she couldn’t comment on the case, referring inquiries to the French police. She also said she couldn’t answer questions as to whether Norwegian authorities were involved in Vikernes’ arrest.
Ragnhild Imerslund, communications chief for Norway’s Foreign Ministry, claimed she and her colleagues only became aware of Vikernes’ arrest through the media. “We have asked the Norwegian embassy in Paris to consult French police,” Imerslund told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She later told website VG.no that “we have taken contact with French authorities,” but had no confirmation of where Vikernes was. He was expected to be transferred to Paris during his initial custody period of four days.
Vikernes’ former defense attorney in Norway, John Christian Elden, said he wasn’t aware of any new charges against Vikernes nor whether the case has any ties to Norway.
Vikernes is a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who has written on his blog that he was “forced out of Norway by greedy lawyers” who claimed he owed their clients money. Vikernes, who turned 40 this year, was also known as “Greven” and “Count Grishnackh” during the earlier days of his black metal career.
In 1994, he was convicted and sentenced to Norway’s longest prison term of 21 years for murdering his band colleague Øystein Aarseth and for burning down three churches including the original Holmenkollen Chapel next to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo.
After his release from prison four years ago, he made a comeback as a musician, releasing new albums with the band Burzum, but he’s since written on his blog that the music was mostly made in the Brittany region of France where he’s lived since 2010.
He has also continued to express extreme views on his website, claiming that “civil war, race war and a return to extreme nationalism are the the only solution. Nothing other than a new Ice Age can stop immigration from Asia and Africa.”
Le Monde reported that Vikernes is part of a group of 530 persons who support the July 22, 2011 attacks by lone Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik. Vikernes nonetheless criticized Breivik shortly after Breivik bombed Norway’s government headquarters and massacred 69 people attending the Labour Party’s summer camp on the island of Utøya two years ago, calling him part of a so-called Jewish conspiracy. Vikernes also has called Breivik a “Christian loser” and “Zionist agent.”
As a former leader of a neo-Nazi group called Hvit Arisk Motstand (White Aryan Resistance), Vikernes is known as someone who hates Jews, according to Øyvind Strømmen, who has monitored right-wing extremists for years.
“Vikernes is a classic neo-Nazi and Jew-hater, and a rabid nationalist,” Strømmen told NRK, noting that Vikernes became active on his blog after Breivik’s attacks and during his trial last year.
“Vikernes is a man who is capable of using violence,” Strømmen told NRK. “We have seen that before.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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