Government trains against terror

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Top government officials from the prime minister to the head of defense and the police have been involved in an anti-terror exercise this week aimed at preparing them for heading off a major crisis, like the capture of oil rigs off the Norwegian coast.

The prospect of such a terrorist attack is nothing new, and even was the subject of a film drama back in the 1980s. But last year’s terrorist attacks by a lone bomber and gunman have clearly presented the danger that looms, and prompted the lengthy exercise.

It was called “Operation Gemini” and it went on for several days this week. On Thursday it entered its final phase with a simulated crisis meeting held in the Office of the Prime Minister that also included the leadership of several government ministries.

The exercise was based on a hypothetical situation in which terrorists gain control over an oil installation off the Helgelands Coast and take many persons hostage, reported news bureau NTB. The terrorists were demanding that Norway change its politics regarding leaders of another country. If the demands aren’t met, the terrorists threaten to start killing their hostages.

Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide wouldn’t go into more detail about the exercise than that until it was completed.

“The terrorists want us to change our politics and the question is, ‘shall we do that,’ and of course the answer is ‘no,'” Eide told NTB. “But we have to look at the consequences of that decision. How should it be communicated? To who? How should we evaluate it, against an armed situation?”

The exercise also aims to evaluate how the police might ask for help from the military, and how that works. Such cooperation came under criticism after the July 22 attacks last year, when it didn’t prove to function well. Both Eide and Justice Minister Grete Faremo, formerly Norway’s defense minister, think the exercise has had positive results.

“It’s been useful,” Faremo said. “We’ve seen some of the dilemmas we can quickly face in the real world.” The exercise is said to have been very realistic, using an actual oil platform and prompting Eide to decide early that the military should quickly assist the police.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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