Krekar’s arrest may hike terror threat

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UPDATED: Mullah Krekar is at least temporarily out of action, after an Oslo judge ordered on Wednesday that he be held in custody following his arrest on Tuesday. He’d already sent out new messages to his followers, however, that police have interpreted as even more threats against Norway and Norwegians including former prime minister and current peace broker Kjell Magne Bondevik. Some worry the arrest itself will spur Krekar’s followers into violent action.

An Oslo city court judge went along Wednesday with a police request to keep Krekar in custody for at least eight weeks, until May 23, while they continue gathering evidence against him. The court based its ruling on a need to prevent Krekar from committing more crimes, like the death threats that resulted in a five-year prison sentence on Monday. Krekar had appealed and initially been allowed to go home, but police arrested him on Tuesday after claiming he had made new threats aimed at spreading fear in Norwegian society.

Some of the new threats were broadcast over websites during the weekend, before Krekar was found guilty on Monday of making the earlier death threats. Included in them, according to newspaper Aftenposten, were detailed instructions from Krekar on how his followers should organize themselves in cells, and how they must fight against every non-believer, whether they are “Norwegian intelligence agents or American soldiers.”

Bondevik advised of Krekar’s comments
Krekar also specifically mentioned Bondevik, saying their “brothers in Somalia” know where Bondevik lives and that no one knows what reactions might result from a visit Bondevik paid to Somalia last month. A spokesman at Bondevik’s peace center in Oslo said Bondevik was currently traveling in the Middle East but had been made aware of Krekar’s alleged threat.

Krekar, an Islamic cleric who views himself as a teacher of Islamic and sharia law, also commented on how his followers could react if he was actually jailed. He suggested they could take a Norwegian as hostage in retaliation, and keep the hostage confined in a cellar for as long as Krekar is confined. It’s believed around 600 persons followed Krekar’s appeal on Saturday evening. It’s unclear how extensive Krekar’s international network really is, but some believe it’s large.

Police delayed Krekar’s arrest
Even though Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) was aware of the statements made by Krekar during the weekend, they didn’t arrest him when he was sentenced to prison on Monday. Krekar appealed on the spot, and Aftenposten reported that PST wanted to wait and see whether Krekar would issue more instructions to his followers.

Police also raided Krekar’s apartment in Oslo’s Tøyen district after his arrest, which may spark some violent reaction from Krekar’s followers, according to the former secretary general of Norway’s Islamic council (Islamsk Råd), Shoaib Sultan. He has carried out research on both right-wing and Islamic extremists, and told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday that putting Krekar in jail may violate the relative peace that had been struck between Krekar and Norwegian authorities while they keep working on his deportation.

“It’s impossible to say, but I think they (Krekar’s followers) can take violent action against the state of Norway,” Sultan told NRK. It can boost their radicalization, he added.

Lost in translation
Krekar’s defense attorneys claim their client was arrested after political pressure and that he’s now been made a martyr. They downplay Krekar’s recent alleged threats, saying they may have been misinterpreted and that they have seen no evidence of new threats.

Krekar denied once again that his statements amounted to threats, but he offered to sit in house arrest without an Internet connection to avoid imprisonment. The court turned him down.

Krekar, age 55, earlier has said he has prepared two wills with instructions for how his followers should react if he dies in prison. PST officials, though, won’t say whether they intend to raise the threat levels for Norway.

“I can’t comment on that now,” PST spokesman Martin Bernsen told Aftenposten. “But we evaluate the threat level against Norwegian interests both in Norway and abroad on an ongoing basis.” NRK reported that police have indicated a desire to keep Krekar in custody until his appeals trial begins, probably this autumn.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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