Norwegian authorities believe at least seven and possibly as many as 100 Norwegian citizens have headed to Syria to take part in its ongoing civil war. They fear, as do many parents of young Muslim men with sympathy for the opposition forces in Syria, that they’ll be more radical when they return.
Lt Gen Kjell Grandhagen, head of the Norwegian military intelligence unit Etterretningstjenesten (E-tjenesten), told reporters that he’s “extremely concerned” that some of the Norwegians are taking part in armed battles with warriors tied to terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. “They can clearly have good intentions for traveling to Syria, but it’s serious when they systematically choose to link with Al-Qaeda,” Grandhagen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It raises questions of international terrorism.”
Justice Minister Grete Faremo stressed that evidence of Al-Qaeda training or connections can lead to criminal prosecution back home in Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that two of Norway’s most radical Islamists, the former gang leader and convicted extortionist Arfan Bhatti and Mohyeldeen Mohammad, are among Norwegians in Syria, while NRK reported Bhatti was in Pakistan.
Muslim parents in Oslo, meanwhile, flocked to a meeting last week with the highly respected moderate Imam Pir Alauddin Siddiqui, who traveled from his home in London to counsel them on how they can extract their children from any radical groups. Siddiqui condemned violence and any proclamations inciting violence as “anti-Islamic,” adding that “it defies human dignity to resort to violence.”