Norwegian police were ordered on Tuesday to stop carrying firearms and return them to locked containers inside patrol cars. The imminent threat of a terrorist attack in Norway’s largest cities is now considered somewhat lower than it was during the Easter holiday week.
“The arming of police came as a direct consequence of the attack in Stockholm and the explosive device that was found in Oslo,” Knut Smedsrud, director of preparedness for the state police, told reporters Tuesday afternoon. He said there were still “many unknown factors” in the investigations of both incidents, but police officials believe the “copy-cat effect” is now lower.
“We feared that there could be a similar attack in Norway (during Easter),” Smedsrud said. He stressed that police can quickly re-arm on short notice if necessary.
In the meantime police nationwide will now keep their firearms in locked containers in their vehicles. They had rearmed in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Norway’s other large cities, also at the country’s gateway airport at Gardermoen north of Oslo.
“The police directorate has, in a meeting with police chiefs, made it clear that we must maintain a high level of activity and vigilance, along with other preventive measures,” Smedsrud said. “For us, it’s very important to stress that we are doing everything we can to protect residents and hinder any attacks in Norway.”
He said the most important thing police can do now is to maintain heightened levels of awareness and follow up on efforts to prevent radicalization in cooperation with local governments.
“I understand that many people are uneasy,” Smedsrud said, “but the danger of being subject to a terrorist attack is quite low.” Norway’s police intelligence unit PST, however, is maintaining its threat assessment at “probable,” after raising it last week from “possible.”