The former security chief for Norwegian oil company Statoil is the latest anti-terror expert to warn that Norway is vulnerable to another terrorist attack, and possibly soon. Bernard Duncan Lyng, who’s also a former intelligence officer in the Norwegian military, notes that Norway “is an open and vulnerable country” to terrorists whose goal is to kill the highest numbers of civilians possible and create fear and anxiety.
Lyng told newspaper Dagsavisen on Friday, the day after Statoil marked the first anniversary of a terrorist attack on a gas facility it helps run in Algeria, that he thinks there’s greater danger for terrorist attacks that target Norwegian interests abroad than for attacks within Norway. That’s because increasing numbers of companies like Statoil are operating and expanding in areas of conflict around the world. A facility run by Oslo-based oil company DNO was hit in the Middle East earlier this month, leaving several of its local workers dead. Five Norwegians were killed in the attack on Statoil’ Algerian facility last year.
At the same time, Lyng says Norway’s openness, its international community and valuable assets like offshore oil and gas installations can be terror targets as well. Anders G Romarheim, a researcher at Norway’s Institute for Defense Studies (Institutt for forsvarsstudier) agrees with Lyng that Norway is vulnerable despite its location in a relatively peaceful corner of the globe.
“It’s unfortunately naive to think that the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011 (when a lone right-wing Norwegian gunman bombed government headquarters and killed 77 people) and at (Statoil’s) In Amenas plant were isolated events,” Romarheim told Dagsavisen. “If you read (police intelligence unit) PST’s threat evaluations year after year, you’ll see rising concerns for terrorism against Norway and Norwegian interests abroad.”
PST boss Benedicte Bjørnland has said that “we can never eliminate the terror threat,” and stressed that it’s here to stay. “We have to learn to live with it,” she told reporters last year.
Among the likely terror targets in Norway are the country’s offshore oil platforms, where anti-terror researchers have warned security is inadequate despite regular anti-terror exercises conducted by both Statoil, other oil companies, the Norwegian police and military. Still, others argue that land-based oil assets are under greater threat.
“Norway doesn’t accurately calculate the dimensions of the threat against offshore installations versus those on land,” Professor Tore Bjørgo of the state police academy told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) last autumn, when anti-terror troops were conducting a major exercise off Tananger on Norway’s west coast. “It’s much more probable that terrorists will attack on land, because it’s easier to escape than it would be from an oil platform.”
Even though the threat to offshore installations is high, Bjørgo thinks there’s too much focus on the threat to ships, platforms and other maritime installations and too little attention on refineries, gas plants and other industrial plants on the mainland. Others worry that Norway’s own Oil & Energy Ministry isn’t working hard enough to secure the country’s oil installations against spying, sabotage and terror both offshore and on land.
Magazine Teknisk Ukeblad reported last fall that the ministry wrote to Norway’s national security authority NSM (Nasjonal sikkerhetsmyndighet) last year claiming that no oil or gas installations needed extra protection from terrorism. NSM disagreed: “We question the ministry’s conclusion,” Carsten Rapp of NSM told Teknisk Ukeblad. “In our opinion, the country’s oil and gas installations are clearly part of vital national infrastructure that must be secured.”
Experts also see a need for more security around Norway’s popular fleet of coastal vessels in the Hurtigruten line, because they carry passengers from many countries who are visiting Norway, and would be highly visible targets that could get lots of publicity for terrorists.
Other targets include various top Norwegian officials (it’s only recently that the prime minister has been assigned a constant bodyguard), the Parliament building (Stortinget) in downtown Oslo, Norwegian universities, hospitals, airlines and trains.