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Terror threat now ‘more serious’

Islamic fundamentalists, right-wing extremists and foreign spies pose the greatest threats to Norway’s safety in 2011, the state police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) declared on Monday. PST’s boss and a government minister also lobbied hard for adoption of a controversial EU data storage initiative, to help fight terrorism.

PST chief Janne Kristiansen said there are few persons in Norway who support Islamic or right-wing extremists. Those who do, though, are forming firmer ties to contacts overseas.

“In that way, extreme Islam in Norway is steadily becoming more similar to that internationally,” Kristiansen said at a press conference Monday. She called the terrorism overview in Norway “complex,” sharpening the threat it poses.

PST investigators pointed to an increasing level of expressions of radicalism in public and not least in social media. There’s also more travel to areas of conflict for training or battle. PST also believes Islamic fundamentalists in Norway have more global ties than previously.

“Persons tied to radical Islamic groups have traveled to Afghanistan or Pakistan and we have reason to believe they have been in training camps or taken part in battles there,” Kristiansen said. “That raises the chances of terrorist actions in Norway.”

Meanwhile, neither right- nor left-wing extremists pose a serious threat in Norway, but right-wing extremism is rising. “Neo-nazis aren’t a big treat, but we have seen some increased activity,” she said. Meanwhile, other countries are spying on Norway, in hopes of influencing defense and security policies, the oil and gas sector and high technology, PST officials believe.

Both Kristiansen and Defense Minister Grete Faremo, who also is serving as acting Justice Minister since Knut Storberget is on parental leave, used the opportunity to urge support for the EU’s controversial data storage initiative. It would require retention of traffic from all Internet and mobile phone users.

“To meet new terrorism threats the police have asked for access to information about who suspected terrorists have contacted on the phone, through text messages or e-mail,” Faremo said. “The police need the historic data to prevent and fight terror.”

Critics of the initiative, who fear it will impose on personal privacy, accused Faremo and Kristiansen of using scare tactics to get the measure passed in Parliament. It comes up for a vote on April 5, and may result in Norway’s first veto of an EU resolution.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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