UPDATED: Security measures were increased at key locations in Oslo, throughout airports and transport hubs, and along Norway’s borders on Thursday after authorities intercepted information about a “credible” terror threat against Norway in the coming days. Oslo police said the capital was particularly vulnerable.
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, Police Security Service PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) chief Benedicte Bjørnland and the acting chief of police, Vidar Refvik, called an emergency press conference on Thursday morning, where they revealed they had received a threat against Norway. While they said it was “credible,” they had no specific information on who was behind the threat, what was being targeted, and exactly when an attack would come. They believed people with links to extremist groups in the Syrian conflict were behind the threat.
John Fredriksen of the Oslo Police said they were taking the situation very seriously, and had increased the number of uniformed and plain-clothed officers at key locations like Oslo Central Station and Oslo Airport. He said they had called officers back from their summer vacations, and also requested reinforcements from the military.
“For the public, this means that they will increasingly see visible police, and there will be more civilian police out in the streets, who are armed,” Fredriksen said. “It does not mean that you should be afraid of the situation, it is confidence-building. This is a threat to Norway. But it is clear that the vulnerability of Oslo is large and that there are many potential targets in Oslo.”
Security was also increased at the Parliament and the Parliament buildings, royal palace and Oslo City Hall (Rådhuset) was closed to tourists until further notice. “We’re undertaking an assessment at the moment,” City Hall manager Bjørn Risvik told news bureau NTB. He said security experts would make an assessment of the building in the early afternoon.
The neighbouring municipalities of Asker and Bærum also increased security. “You will be able to see visible police with weapons in Asker and Bærum,” said the district’s police chief of staff Per Christian Ottesen. “We encourage the public to behave as they would on a normal day, but they should listen to news updates and advice which may come.”
Norway Cup and Tall Ships Races
The Norway Cup international football tournament is expected to attract 30,000 participants from more than 50 countries to Ekebergsletta in Oslo from Sunday. It runs until August 2, and will not be cancelled. “We’re doing what we always do in such situations – we’re adhering to the advice we get from the police,” said the event’s safety officer, Cato Løken. “They control the security efforts surrounding the Norway Cup, and the situation that has arisen now.”
“I understand that people are nervous, but encourage them to follow the guidelines given and let the children participate in the world’s greatest football tournament,” said the head of the Sogn og Fjordane football association, Robert Endestad. “It’s important not to scaremonger too much. I think that is most sensible.”
Fredriksen said police would be in contact with organizers of events being held in Oslo, including the Norway Cup.
In Bergen, organizers of the Tall Ships Races said half a million people were expected through the festival over the weekend. “I am informed and have a good dialogue with the police,” said event manager Håkon Vatle. “Tall Ship Races will go ahead as planned, but there will be extra police on the streets.”
“It means an increased presence at traffic hubs like airports, train and bus stations, and others,” said the head of Hordaland police district, Geir Gudmundsen. “Police have also increased their presence at the Tall Ships Races.”
Airports, harbours and border control.
Police and aviation authorities have heightened the readiness level of all airports in Norway, and armed officers will be manning all airports and toll stations.
“We’re taking the measures which we find necessary out from that,” said Stein Brynildsen from Romerike police district. “I don’t want to go into it specifically, but we have (Oslo’s main airport at) Gardermoen in our district and other transit hubs. That’s what we’re following up on.”
“We are in close dialogue with the police, but we’re taking no visible action now,” said the director at Bergen’s Flesland airport, Aslak Sverdrup. “It will have no impact on departures or incoming flights to Flesland yet. I will not comment further.”
Avinor and airlines SAS and Norwegian were all operating as normal on Thursday, but said they were following the situation and would adhere to any further instructions from authorities.
At the Kristiansand harbour in southern Norway, police were conducting extra searches on vehicles arriving by ferry from Denmark. “We are still at security level one,” said assistant port director Thomas Granfeldt. “But we have considerably sharpened surveillance at the harbour today. We’re following the rules strictly, and let absolutely no one in through our barriers today who doesn’t have reason to be there.”
National port authorities have requested passenger lists from ships arriving at all harbours in Norway.
Extra attention was also being paid to Norway’s border crossings, including the far northern boundary with Finland. Armed police were visible on the main highways from Sweden at the Hedmark county border crossings. Security was not increased on the Swedish side of the border.
Companies and services gear up
Businesses that had security plans were urged to review them and make sure they were up-to-date.
Major oil company Statoil has been the target of international terror attacks in the past, but would not say if any extra measures had been implemented to secure oil platforms and offshore installations. The company said its contingency plans were up to date.
“I will not classify the preparation now, but we have a tight and ongoing dialogue with the Norwegian authorities,” said Statoil’s spokesman Knut Rostad. Hordaland police have increased security around Statoil’s Mongstad plant.
Hospitals around the country also reported a heightened level of readiness.