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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Norwegians join insurgents’ fight

UPDATED: Norway’s military intelligence chief has confirmed that Norwegian citizens have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, fought on the side of insurgents and even shot at NATO-led international troops that have included Norwegian soldiers. Their actions can lead to their arrest and imprisonment in Norway. On Wednesday, meanwhile, came news that a man from Fredrikstad has been killed in Syria in connection with its civil war.

Norway has been withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan but around 200 remain. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Thorbjørn Kjosvold

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Lt Gen Kjell Grandhagen, who heads the military’s intelligence gathering unit (Etterretningstjenesten, also known as E-tjenesten), confirmed that the unit “for several years” has followed the movements of Norwegians “who travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan to take part in armed battle or terror-related training.”

He said there were “very few cases,” but in a few of them, “Norwegians were directly tied to carrying out or attempting armed attacks against Afghan authorities and/or the (NATO-led) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), where Norwegian soldiers are also involved.”

On Thursday, the Norwegian military’s attorney general and chief prosecutor told Aftenposten that Norwegians who have taken part in armed attacks against ISAF troops in Afghanistan can be arrested and held accountable by a Norwegian court. Gen Arne Willy Dahl said that since they do not represent a state, they’re not covered by international law that applies to acts of war. They can thus be found guilty of illegal acts.

Norwegian Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen was recently in Afghanistan and visited ISAF’s headquarters in Kabul. From left: Norwegian Defense Chief Harald Sunde, Ambassador Nils Haugstveit, Strøm-Erichsen, NATOs SCR Maurits Jochems and ISAF General Nick P Carter. PHOTO: Forsvarsdepartementet

Grandhagen said he couldn’t be more specific about the Norwegian Islamics’ alleged targets, nor would he comment on when or where their attacks in Afghanistan were carried out or attempted. Aftenposten reported though, that Norwegian authorities have “fresh” information about an identified Norwegian Islamic man who, as late as a few weeks ago, is said to have participated in an attack targeted at ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan.

The identified Norwegian citizen can also be tied to demonstrations arranged by radical Islamic activists in recent years, among them protests against Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan. Norway has been in the process of withdrawing its troops but around 200 remain and the government is evaluating requests from Afghan authorities that others return.

Grandhagen also confirmed that Norwegians in other cases have been involved in terror-related training. Earlier this autumn, he publicized concerns over Norwegian citizens who were traveling to Syria to fight alongside alleged terrorists. The fear is that they’ll be more radical when or if they return to Norway, even though Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide announced this week that Norway was recognizing the national coalition for the democratic and revolutionary forces in Syria as the “legitimate representative” for the Syrian people. State Secretary Torgeir Larsen was in Marrakesh on Tuesday and Wednesday, where he met with coalition officials, to discuss humanitarian aid to Syria and protection of humanitarian workers, and with a support group made up of UN-member countries.

On Wednesday, the website for newspaper Fredriksstad Blad reported that a local man in his 20s had been shot and killed in Syria on Tuesday. He reportedly had traveled to Syria to take part in the country’s civil war, while friends in Fredrikstad said he was there to help people suffering under it.

A spokesman for Norway’s Foreign Ministry told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he could neither confirm nor deny the report, claiming the ministry had no information other than what had been in Norwegian media. Norway has closed its embassy in Syria and spokesman Svein Michelsen said the ministry no longer has diplomatic staff in the country.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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