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Friday, May 24, 2024

Embassy sparked own bomb scare

UPDATED: An almost eerie quiet descended on the area around the US Embassy in Oslo on Tuesday, as police dealt with what they feared was a bomb found under a nearby car. Now there may be some noise, after police indicated the bomb scare was sparked by the embassy itself.

Police blocked off all streets around the US Embassy, which is seen at the center of the photo. It's located across the street from the park around the Royal Palace and the Norwegian Nobel Institute (yellow building at left). PHOTO: Views and News

A major emergency response to the bomb scare halted traffic in the middle of the day and forced local evacuations. Police cordoned off a wide area around the embassy and the adjacent Royal Palace after a “suspicious object” they feared was an explosive device was found under a nearby parked car.

Around two hours later, just before 1:30pm, police could call off the major operation they’d mounted after reporting that the “suspicious object” was not dangerous after all. Police operations leader Martin Todnem had confirmed earlier that a bomb squad was on the scene.

Johan Fredriksen of the Oslo Police District could later report that the object was a “practice bomb”  used in drills that embassy staff apparently had forgotten to remove from one of their own vehicles. Fredriksen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that unwitting embassy guards had reacted correctly to the object “and done a good job,” but the entire disruptive emergency operation “could have been avoided.”

Members of the king’s guards on duty at the Royal Palace just across the street from the embassy had already aided in the evacuation of a large, otherwise heavily trafficked area around the embassy. Normally busy streets from Bygdøy allé in the west to Stortingsgata in the east were cordoned off, as were Parkveien, Inkognito gate, Cort Adelers gate and several side streets leading down from the embassy.

Heavily armed police in protective gear were placed on all streets near the embassy, like here at the corner of Henrik Ibsens gate and Inkognito gate, while an area extending for 500 meters from the chancellery was evacuated. PHOTO: Views and News

Reporters were initially allowed to stand around a block away from the embassy but suddenly were pushed further up Henrik Ibsens gate, the major thoroughfare on which the embassy is located, towards Solli plass. Meanwhile, traffic backed up on both ends of Henrik Ibsens gate, not least after all bus and tram service along the street was halted.

Several ambulances were called out in case of an explosion and waited along with fire trucks and other emergency vehicles outside the cordoned-off area, also along Karl Johans gate. Heavily armed police wearing protective gear were placed on streets all around the embassy.

Details about the “suspicious object” were initially sketchy and some police claimed they didn’t even know where the vehicle under which it was placed was parked. NRK reported later that the object was “made up of components that are not dangerous but meant to resemble a bomb,” according to Fredriksen. The so-called “practice bomb” was attached to a car that “had been used for an internal exercise at the embassy,” Fredriksen said, and the object hadn’t been removed.

City officials were not pleased by the incident that caused major disruption in the capital. The bomb scare also came just over a year after a massive bomb exploded outside Norway’s government headquarters on the other side of the city center, killing eight persons and causing massive damage. The US Embassy, which is under constant guard, has been considered a major target for terrorists for years. A lengthy process of relocating the embassy for security reasons began nearly a decade ago and construction got underway earlier this year.

Police re-opened the area and traffic had resumed by 2pm.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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