More Norwegians may train for terror

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Norway’s Justice Minister Grete Faremo says she can’t rule out that more Norwegians may have ties to terrorist training camps abroad. Norway’s police intelligence unit PST, which reports to Faremo, has confirmed, meanwhile, that they’ve been monitoring the movements of Norwegians who travel to troubled areas.

Faremo won’t comment specifically on reports that an ethnic Norwegian man in his 30s or 40s has undergone training at a camp run by terrorist organization al-Qaeda in Yemen. She told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), however, that such a case is a relevant example of how PST evaluates threats to national security and makes such cases a priority.

“And with what we know about training camps for terror, we can’t rule out that other Norwegian citizens (may be involved),” Faremo told NRK as she was hosting a meeting in Oslo on terror and Islam attended by the justice ministers from the Nordic countries.

‘Operative’ radical convert
Her comments came after news bureau AP reported that the Norwegian in question had converted to Islam and went through a radicalization process that led him to Yemen. He reportedly is considered “operative,” meaning he may be assigned a target to which he could freely travel with his Norwegian passport.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Wednesday that the man has been under surveillance in Yemen, and that police intelligence units cooperating around Europe knew his case would be made public in the AP report, which cited unidentified police intelligence sources.

Norway’s PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) wouldn’t comment on the AP report either, but Aftenposten wrote that PST and other European security agencies believed it could spark concern in the man’s circle of friends, family or acquaintances and thus help them obtain more information about the man and his alleged network.

He’s viewed as now being trained and willing to carry out a terrorist attack either in Norway or elsewhere, likely against a western target possibly including the upcoming summer Olympics in London. The Norwegian, who’s believed to still be in Yemen, is also viewed as dangerous and part of an international network believed to be competent and able to use advanced technology to carry out terrorist attacks.

Reported links to Bhatti
NRK reported on Wednesday that police also believe he’s linked to Arfan Bhatti, a Norwegian with a long criminal record of extortion and, most recently, domestic violence who also became the first person in Norway to be charged under a new anti-terror law a few years ago. While Bhatti’s criminal record can limit his own ability to obtain visas, the Norwegian suspect in Yemen reportedly has no criminal record at all, not even a parking ticket. That makes him an attractive candidate for terrorist organizations needing persons willing to travel and carry out attacks.

Stephan Daus, a 24-year-old Norwegian who studied in Yemen, said he wasn’t surprised that a Norwegian reportedly has attended a terrorist training camp in the country. “It’s long been a trend that people travel to training camps in Yemen and other countries,” Daus told Aftenposten. “What’s interesting here is that this is about a a convert to Islam, and not someone who grew up in an Islamic  milieu.”

Daus, now in London where he’s completing a master’s degree on Yemen’s civilian society, said he was met by openness and hospitality in Yemen and never was approached by training camp recruiters. He noted there were very few Scandinavians in Yemen, and that it would be difficult to stay in Yemen without either the Norwegian or Yemeni authorities knowing about it.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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