Islamic extremists continue to pose the biggest threat to national security at present, claimed Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) in its annual evaluation. Other extremists on both the right and the left are also a major concern, along with the spying conducted by foreign governments, prompting the government to set up an anti-terror center led by PST boss Marie Benedicte Bjørnland.
Monday’s threat evaluation was presented by Bjørnland, Justice Minister Grete Faremo and Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, and it marked the first time PST, the military’s intelligence unit (E-tjenesten) and national security agency NSM had compiled it together. The new anti-terror center, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), will allow all three agencies to better coordinate their efforts to analyze threats and share information.
“PST will lead the center and the deputy leader will be from E-tjenesten,” Faremo told reporters. “The new center will develop a more genuine common product. The center will offer a stronger formal structure where personnel will rotate in from both intelligence services. They will, quite literally, work under the same roof and work more systematically.”
Faremo said the “terror challenge” has risen in Norway, with persons and organizations inspired by “extremist Islamic ideology” comprising the most serious threat in 2013, according to PST. That includes Norwegians who have gone abroad and undergone terror training. Bjørnland said that security levels in Norway “are not satisfactory.”
The new anti-terror center, to be located in PST’s offices on Oslo’s east side, will be in place during the course of the year. It wasn’t clear yet how many people will work there, Faremo said.
Lower threat threshold
Bjørnland stressed that Islamic extremists pose the “most serious” threat in Norway regarding politically motivated violence. PST fears that more Norwegian Islamists will travel to conflict areas this year and form ties with terrorist organizations. PST especially worries about what they might do when they return to Norway.
“The threshold for making threats and carrying out extreme acts has become lower,” she said.
At the same time, Norway’s home-grown right-wing terrorist who bombed government headquarters and massacred scores of young Labour Party members two years ago has inspired others here in Norway and abroad.
PST noted that “several” foreign governments are actively and continuously spying on Norway and Norwegian interests. Their spying is directed at many targets, especially within security and preparedness but also business and politics. They’re considered a threat because they can sabotage, bribe or try to exercise influence to the advantage of their own countries, with PST singling out Iran as among them, reported NRK. They also concentrate on Norway’s defense and energy industries, according to PST, with some keen on obtaining technology relevant for production of weapons of mass destruction.
“The threat of terror is here, it will remain here and we must learn to live with it,” Bjørnland said, adding, though, that Norway is “mostly a safe society.” She said PST and other national authorities are doing what they can to reduce the threat of terror, but can never eliminate it.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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