Silent alarm rang at Oslo airports

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The public wasn’t informed, but all three airports serving the greater Oslo area – Norway’s gateway airport OSL at Gardermoen plus Rygge at Moss and Torp at Sandefjord – were put under high alert for around a week last fall because of  threatened terrorist attacks. Only now are Norwegian authorities confirming the terror alarm.

Travelers through Norwegian airports could avoid disruption after a strike by air traffic controllers was averted during the night. PHOTO: Avinor

Three Norwegian airports were feared to be targets for a terrorist attack in November. PHOTO: Avinor

“It’s correct that there was a serious situation in November,” Trond Hugubakken of Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) told Norwegian Broadcsting (NRK). “We had information that was alarming and involved a possible terrorist threat against airports in Østlandet (southeastern Norway) as a possible target.”

Hugubakken told NRK that PST  initially evaluated the information as credible. “We worked hard to get to the bottom of it, in hope of clarifying the situation,” Hugubakken said.

Journalist and author Kjetil Stormark wrote on his blog on website Nettavisen Tuesday night that the threatened attack was believed scheduled for sometime around November 17. Norwegian special police forces (beredskapstroppen), the military’s special forces and local police districts were involved in emergency preparations for an attack and efforts to thwart it.

Extraordinary security measures were put into place around the Gardermoen, Torp and Rygge airports but Hugubakken wouldn’t reveal the origin of the threats. “We receive threats and information in many different ways, but we did launch an investigation (in this case) and affected police districts were alerted,” he told NRK.

Neither the public nor airport officials were immediately informed and then PST  concluded, the day before the attacks were feared to occur, that their informers hadn’t been truthful. Hugubakken said PST grappled with the question of warning the public all along. “It was evaluated right up until the last hours when the correct time would be to warn the public, but then the situation was clarified and therefore it wasn’t necessary,” he told NRK.

Attacks by air and on the ground
Newspaper Aftenposten reported that PST’s information consisted of tips that several persons were involved in a planned bombing of an airport in southeastern Norway. Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen was viewed as the most likely target.

The attack was feared to involve a combination of persons arriving by air themselves, along with persons already on the ground in Norway who would come to the airport to help carry out the attack.

On Friday November 16, police reportedly didn’t dare wait any longer and a crisis meeting was called involving PST, the state police directorate and the Oslo Police District. Sture Martin Vang of the police directorate confirmed they were briefed on the threatened attacks.

“We then put in motion actual measures involving the relevant police districts,” Vang told Aftenposten. Police in Oslo and Romerike, where the airport at Gardermoen is located, were involved in plans to place heavily armed guards around the airport to stop terrorists on the ground from entering.

PST worked through the night to verify the information they had, and just before troops actually were dispatched to the airport, the alarm was called off and the mobilization cancelled.

“In such a situation, we work to confirm or reject the threat,” Martin Bernsen, spokesman for PST, told Aftenposten. “We also work with various others to prepare actual security measures. In this case all of this was done.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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