The former head of Norwegian police intelligence unit PST said she has no regrets that she and her colleagues spent more time monitoring Islamic extremists than right-wing extremists, even though it was the latter who set off terrorist attacks in Oslo last year. Janne Kristiansen still thinks Islamic extremists pose the greatest threat to national security.
“I still think this priority was necessary and correct,” Kristiansen testified during the second of five special hearings in the Norwegian Parliament on Monday. The hearings aim to reveal what went wrong during the emergency response to the attacks on July 22, 2011.
Following Islamic extremists closely
Current PST officials claim they continue to follow Islamic extremists closely, and lately have intensified cooperation between themselves and the state police. Benedicte Bjørnland, who replaced Kristiansen as PST boss earlier this year, recently called in all of Norway’s police chiefs to a meeting aimed at sharing expertise and responsibility for anti-terror measures.
PST also stands by its annual evaluation of threats to national security from earlier this year that also continues to rank Islamic extremists as posing the greatest threat. Police and politicians alike have been alarmed by recent photos showing some of Norway’s most high-profile Islamic extremists, who also have criminal records of violence in Norway, toting weapons in areas that appear to be in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria. Calls have been issued for a new law that would make it illegal to participate in terrorist training camps abroad.
Last week, an Oslo court agreed to keep the head of the radical Islamic group Profetens Ummah in custody for another two weeks, while police continue to investigate alleged threats he made against journalists and members of the Jewish community in Norway.
‘Not enough resources’
Kristiansen, who appeared at Monday’s hearing with fellow former PST boss Jørn Holme, was forced to resign in January after making a public blunder in which she referred to Norwegian military intelligence agents operating in Pakistan. On Monday, when testifying at the parliamentary hearing on Norwegian emergency response, she nonetheless appeared self-assured and didn’t admit to other mistakes during her tenure. Instead, she claimed PST didn’t get the anti-terror resources it had asked for from the government.
The lack of resources, she suggested, forced her colleagues to make tough choices, and they focused on the Islamic threat instead of the right-wing threat. A terrorist like Anders Behring Breivik slipped by them, as he built his bomb and carefully planned his attacks.
Holme, meanwhile, testified that he was upset government and Oslo officials failed to close the main street running through the government complex. “But the message we got was that PST should not involve itself in the issue,” Holme testified.
‘Don’t forget the right-wing extremists’
Terror expert Lars Gule, meanwhile, has said it’s positive that police closely follow radical Norwegian Islamists but he cautioned police not to overlook the right-wing threat. He also fears that the publicity the radical Islamists seek and get can help turn them into martyrs.
“It’s a difficult dilemma for the police and the media,” Gule told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend, while on the Internet, threats made by right-wing extremists are flourishing.
“If the police forget about them, there can easily come complaints from extreme Muslims about unfair treatment,” Gule said.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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