City leader expects embassy apology

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The head of Oslo’s city government said he expects officials at the US Embassy to apologize for setting off a bomb scare and major emergency operation on Tuesday. Stian Berger Røsland also thinks some compensation should be offered.

Police mounted a massive response to the bomb scare at the American Embassy on Tuesday, and cordoned off all streets in the busy area on the fringe of downtown. The embassy is across from the trees in the park around the Royal Palace. At left, the Norwegian Nobel Institute. PHOTO: Views and News

“If sloppiness at the USAs embassy is the reason for today’s drama in Oslo, it must be expected that we get an apology and an offer of a certain amount of economic compensation,” Røsland, who heads the city government coalition as byrådsleder, wrote on the social media site Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

Four hours after what Oslo police call an øvingsbombe (a “practice-” or “test bomb”) was found attached to a car parked near the embassy, officials at what many Norwegians call “Fortress America” were refusing to comment. An embassy spokeswoman told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “everything we say has to be cleared by Washington, which takes some time.”

Embassy staff did send out a message over Twitter saying “we’re safe and sound!” in which they also thanked the “quick and professional response” from Norwegian emergency services to “the situation earlier today.”

Stian Berger Røsland wants an apology from the US Embassy. PHOTO: Byrådet

Embassy officials have harshly criticized Norway’s response to the threat of terrorism on earlier occasions, not least in not-so-diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. They certainly sparked into action a massive response on Tuesday by police, fire department, emergency medical services and even royal guards on duty a the palace across the street from the embassy.

The “suspicious object” that set off alarms from guards around the embassy led to efforts to evacuate the entire area within 500 meters of the embassy building, which encompasses the Royal Palace, the Norwegian Nobel Institute and the Foreign Ministry along with homes, offices and retail establishments. Streets were cordoned off for fear of an explosion and all traffic through the area was halted including all tram, bus and metro service, for two hours.

“An entire city neighbourhood was evacuated, public transport had to be stopped and many people were scared,” Røsland told NRK. “Therefore I hope we get an apology and an offer of compensation from the embassy.” Røsland stressed that the police, who caught much criticism over their response to last year’s terrorism attacks on the island of Utøya, reacted correctly to the bomb scare, adding that “it’s better to do too much than too little.”

Tor Olav Heggem, who led the emergency operation, didn’t want to be too critical of the embassy staff. “We are all human, mistakes can be made and the (phoney bomb) wasn’t put there intentionally,” Heggem told NRK. “It was an unfortunate accident.” Fredriksen agreed, but said the incident must be taken seriously.

“The police have professionally shown how we will handle such situations,” Fredriksen said. “We will now work towards avoiding this type of situation in the future.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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