UPDATED: Radical Islamists continue to pose the greatest security threat in Norway, confirmed the new head of the state police intelligence agency PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) this week. Benedicte Bjørnland’s assessment came just a day before Oslo police mounted a major effort to apprehend a young, Norwegian-born Islamic extremist who’s made threats against the Jewish community and journalists, and alienated the vast majority of his fellow Muslims in Norway.
Bjørnland, who met with a group of journalists at the Foreign Press Association in Oslo, said PST also has its “eyes open” to other extremists who may mount terrorist attacks like the one carried out by an ultra right-wing Norwegian on July 22 last year. “It’s a balance,” Bjørnland said, as PST “develops its strategy” to see where “the new threats” are coming from.
“As we see it, it is the radicalized Islamic threat that is the highest,” Bjørnland said. “But we don’t close our eyes to other extremists. There is the extreme right-wing issue, the anti-Jihadists … but the threat is not as substantial.” While Bjørnland refused to identify any specific suspects or groups during the press meeting on Wednesday, she said PST “doesn’t see the same degree of cooperation” or organization among right-wing extremists as among Islamic extremists.
The next morning, police in Oslo raided what they believed to be the home of radical Islamist Ubaydullah Hussain at Bjerke on Oslo’s northeast side. Their aim was to arrest him on charges that he had issued threats against “certain individuals” in recent weeks, but he wasn’t there. Hussain had also been in the headlines overnight, after local media picked up on inflammatory comments he made via social media that were widely interpreted as threats against the Jewish community in Norway.
Hussain, the 27-year-old leader of a group called Profetens Ummah, later turned himself in to police, underwent questioning Thursday evening and was held in custody overnight. Police announced on Friday that they were keeping him in custody pending a court hearing on the terms of his incarceration. They eventually asked for permission to keep him in custody for four weeks but a local court cut that in half during the weekend, ordering that Hussain be held in custody for two weeks with a ban on any letters, visitors or access to media.
Rejected by many other Muslims
Hussain is far from popular among the vast majority of Muslims in Oslo. He reportedly was thrown out of a local mosque after making a speech that was so extreme that officials of the mosque on Åkebergveien later formally distanced themselves from him on the mosque’s website. While thousands of Muslims gathered peacefully on the town square of Youngstorget earlier this autumn to protest a video that offended them, Hussain led a demonstration by less than 100 near the US Embassy that mobilized police and got much more local media attention.
It’s his provocative, inflammatory language that raises the most concern, from his offensive descriptions of Jews to suggestions that Norway could be the site of another terrorist attack. He and others at the embassy demonstration chanted “Obama, Obama, we love Osama,” and he has praised and mourned the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on a number of occasions.
Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Friday that Hussain has family ties to Pakistan but was born and reared in Norway. He was a talented football player who won admission to the top athletics program at Wang and has been a coach of a team in Oslo’s Holmlia district. He allegedly has gained respect among some young Muslims for his ability to cite verbatim from the Koran.
Now he claims to lead Profetens Ummah, which has 600 members in its Facebook group. The group reportedly has been raising money to send young recruits to Syria, to fight in its ongoing civil war, and for actively recruiting young new members and trying to radicalize them as well.
PST aims for ‘early prevention’
Police said told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Hussain had admitted making the statements that police define as threats, and that they’re investigating both the threats against the Jewish community and two persons that NRK claims are journalists.
PST, meanwhile, won’t comment on any specific investigations of its own but Bjørnland stressed that she is putting priority on what she called “early prevention” programs, to prevent young persons from becoming radical on either end of the political spectrum. The programs can involve assistance from teachers, local police, welfare officials and others who come in contact with troubled youth and can detect vulnerability to radicalization.
“They are our eyes in the community,” Bjørnland said. “It’s very hard to turn around a radicalized terrorist, it can be too late. What we need is action to prevent youth from turning radical.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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