Politicians continued to sound off on Monday after news broke that Norway’s police intelligence agency PST had “taken action” again 25 men in eastern Norway, all suspected of planning terrorist acts both in Norway and abroad. The men are believed to have consulted with a former Taliban minister who defected and came to Norway as a refugee in 2001.
The granting of refugee status to a former Taliban minister has sparked outrage in some circles, including among immigration officials who reportedly filed objections. PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) allegedly pushed the asylum through because the man was cooperating with authorities and sharing valuable information about the Taliban.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported Monday that the former Taliban minister has been an imam in a small mosque in Oslo but also is believed to have traveled several times back to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. PST confirmed to news bureau NTB that he hasn’t been working as an informer for a long time.
PST made no mention of the man when Justice Minister Knut Storberget announced Friday that PST would be receiving additional funding in the new revised state budget. Both Storberget and PST chief Jørn Holme, however, revealed that the PST had questioned 25 men in and around the Oslo metropolitan area and believed they had prevented them from carrying out planned terrorist acts.
Their suspicions arose after PST forces had monitored “worrisome conversations” among the men. They spoke of jihad (holy war), for example, and are believed to have subscribed to “extreme islamic” beliefs.
“We didn’t uncover any concrete plans of a terror attack,” said Jon Fitje of PST, “but the information we collected and the conversations we overheard sparked concern.”
None of the 25 men is an ethnic Norwegian. Some have Norwegian citizenship, others foreign citizenship, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
While some politicians criticized the granting of asylum to the former Taliban minister, others want to question both him and the 25 men at an open debate. “Let’s hear what they have to say,” Abid Q Raja of the center-conservative party Venstre told Aftenposten . “PST has to operate in secrecy, but we can contribute to disarming these men by meeting them in an open dialogue.” It’s unclear whether any of them would be willing to participate.
The government, meanwhile, won agreements Monday to deport several would-be refugees from Iraq who failed to meet asylum standards. Norway remains unable, though, to deport its most famous refugee, Mullah Krekar, who’s been legally deemed a threat to national security. Krekar is believed to face a death penalty in Iraq and therefore can’t be sent back because of international treaties to which Norway has agreed.