More ministers assigned body guards

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Even though Norwegians are showing more confidence in their government and each other, the country’s special police intelligence unit PST has raised security levels around government ministers and several now have constant body guards.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre visiting a flower memorial in the week after the attacks, when he was assigned a body guard. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg no longer is the only government leader with permanent security personnel around him at all times. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Defense Minister Grete Faremo and Justice Minister Knut Storberget now have been assigned body guards as well, reported NRK.

The report comes just as researchers unveiled results of a new study that shows a surprising lack of fear and loathing after the July 22 terrorist attacks in Norway. The study showed that a majority now has even more confidence in their fellow Norwegians and in other ethnic groups, their government and parliament.

Officials at PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste), however, aren’t showing the same level of confidence. Støre and Faremo, reported NRK, have been followed by their own body guards ever since July 22, in fear of more attacks by right-wing extremists. PST wouldn’t comment.

Tore Bjørgo, research chief at Norway’s police academy, said there are people within far-right circles in Norway who “have thoughts about killing ministers. It’s clear that this must prompt alarms go off, so precautions are taken.” Bjørgo called body guards “a reasonable measure.”

Norway’s late King Olav was famous for saying that he didn’t need any body guards because he had 4 million Norwegians to protect him. As late as the 1990s, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was free to wander around Oslo and elsewhere with no guards at all, and metal detectors on domestic flights from Norwegian airports didn’t exist in 1989. That, however, has changed.

PST will only say that security measures are constantly being re-evaluated. It’s unclear whether Støre and his fellow ministers will be assigned body guards indefinitely.

Bjørgo told NRK it wasn’t “unnatural” for PST to boost security right after the attacks. “It’s clear that they must evaluate how they can protect certain persons, like ministers, better than usual,” he said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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