UPDATED: Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste) announced the arrests Tuesday of three men in their 20s, all residents of Oslo, alleging that they pose a threat to both Norway “and its allies.” The father of two of the men, born in the former Yugoslavia, said he was glad his sons were arrested. The third man is from Somalia.
All are Norwegian citizens, however, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported they were all arrested at their homes in the Oslo area at around 6am on Tuesday. One of the men is age 29, while the two others are 24 and 27.
Fought in Syria
Two of the men are known to have been fighting in Syria, and are suspected of having had plans to join an organization called Den islamske staten i Irak og i Levanten (The Islamic State in Iraq and Levanten, ISIL). ISIL was defined as a terrorist organization by the United Nations in May 2013.
Norwegian police have long been alarmed over the numbers of Norwegian citizens, believed to be as many as 50, who have traveled to Syria to join the civil war. They fear further radicalization of their Islamic beliefs, while some have disappeared or been killed in fighting.
“According to what the police have uncovered, the three had plans to join ISIL in Syria,” Jan Glent, director of the investigatory and prosecuting arm of PST. “Two of them have participated there earlier as so-called foreign warriors.”
Posed a threat
Glent wouldn’t say whether any of the men have any earlier records of arrest or conviction. They formally were arrested on charges of allegedly violating Norwegian law against participating in or supporting a terror organization.
PST has determined that such participation or support constitutes a threat against Norway and Norway’s allies. Glent said the three men would be subject to questioning during the day on Tuesday and to a custody hearing on Wednesday.
The men are believed to be among an estimated 2,000 so-called Jihadists who have traveled from European countries to take part in the civil war in Syria, with a goal of turning the country into an Islamic state under sharia law. PST has earlier reported that it believes as many as 50 Norwegian citizens are or have been among those fighting in Syria.
‘Good that PST arrested my sons’
The father of the two men, brothers who live in Bærum just outside Oslo, said he was happy the police had done their job and that he wouldn’t lose any more children in the Syrian conflict. He said his third son had already been killed fighting in the civil war, and he was afraid of losing the others if they went, too.
“I don’t want to lose the two sons I have now,” he told NRK. “It is difficult to say very much now, because I don’t know what the whole situation is. My opinion is that it was good. I don’t want to lose the two of them.” The man had not spoken with his sons, and said he didn’t know they were headed for Syria.
All three men denied the terror charges. “My client denies guilt in this indictment and he is willing to explain himself to police,” said lawyer John Christian Elden, who is representing the 29-year-old. “He is surprised about being arrested in such a situation, but is explaining himself to police.”
PST said they had secretly been investigating the men for some time before Tuesday’s coordinated arrests, and stressed that while the men were not accused of plotting against Norwegian targets, they would be taken into custody. “We will certainly ask for custody for four weeks,” said Glent.
It’s not the first time PST has arrested Norwegian citizens in connection to the Syrian conflict. In February a 22-year-old Norwegian-Pakistani man was arrested and charged with alleged crimes including murder and terrorism after returning home wounded to Oslo.