Norwegian media, fueled by disputed leaks from those probing the country’s biggest case of suspected terrorism ever, suggested over the weekend that Norway itself was the target of three men believed to have been making bombs. It would have been too dangerous, the media reported, to transport the bombs overseas.
Major newspapers including Verdens Gang (VG) and Aftenposten, along with Norwegian Broadcating (NRK) , reported that the chemicals allegedly being used to make the bombs are too unstable to withstand transport. Investigators thus reportedly believed that the terror suspects’ target was within Norway.
Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) wanted to hold off on making any arrests until they had more information about the suspects’ intended target, reported Aftenposten. After receiving calls from international media last week, however, they decided to arrest the three suspects on Thursday. Media involved deny they would have blown the investigation, though, and claim American investigators were also pressuring the Norwegians to act.
The Norwegian investigators are believed to have used all possible legal means of keeping the three suspects under surveillance for the past year, including listening devices within their homes, tapping their phones, using GPS equipment to track their movements, opening their mail and secretly ransacking their homes.
The suspects have undergone police questioning since their arrests on Thursday. One of them, a 39-year-old Uyghur who’s now a Norwegian citizen, admitted to helping an acquaintance, a 37-year-old Iraqi man also under arrest, obtain a chemical that can be used to make bombs. The 39-year-old’s defense attorney claimed, however, that his client thought the chemical would only be used to remove rust from cars.
No actual target has been revealed so far, but several other terrorist experts support the theory that it was Norwegian. They claim Norway has become a terrorist target because of its military involvement in Afghanistan and, earlier, Iraq and also because various Norwegian media outlets have published drawings of the prophet Mohammed deemed offensive to Muslims.
Norway also has a well-developed oil industry and annually awards the Nobel Peace Prize, often to persons viewed by terrorists as the enemy. Anti-terrorism precautions were massive, for example, when the Peace Prize last year was awarded to US President Barack Obama.
Kristian Berg Harpviken of the peace research institute PRIO in Oslo told Aftenposten that he thinks Norway’s efforts to fight terrorism in Afghanistan have made Norway more vulnerable to terrorism at home. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre disagreed, saying the situation would be “more dramatic and negative if we withdrew” from Afghanistan.
Debate was running high on Monday, meanwhile, over all the information allegedly leaked by investigators to the media. Defense attorneys were furious, saying the media had been given more information than they had, and that they would leak information as well. An internal affairs unit within the Norwegian state police told news bureau NTB that it would investigate the alleged leaks. The head of the police officers’ union also called the leaks “unfortunate” while PST officials denied they were intentionally leaking details of their investigation to reporters.