On high alert into the weekend

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Norway’s Police Directorate continued to increase its security capacity on Friday afternoon, saying it still did not know what kind of threat Norway faced and had to build up endurance going into the weekend. Foreign Minister Børge Brende said he would not be cancelling his plans in the face of the terror threat, and urged the public to do the same.

The head of Norway's Police Directorate, Odd Reidar Humlegård said

The head of Norway’s Police Directorate, Odd Reidar Humlegård said authorities would remain on high alert over the weekend, but still had very few details about the kind of terror threat Norway faced. PHOTO: Politidirektoratet

“There is no major change to the picture,” the directorate’s chief Odd Reidar Humlegård during a press conference on Friday afternoon. “That is actually good. It is still the case that we are adhering to (police intelligence service) PST’s threat assessment.”

“The measures which have been implemented roll on, and must be maintained through the weekend,” he said. “We are already underway with preparing to increase our capacity. That is to prepare for better endurance, we don’t know how long this will last. In addition we must be prepared to increase our capacity quickly.”

He said Norway had never been at such a heightened threat level, and never been so well-prepared for a potential threat.

PST, meanwhile, would neither confirm nor deny reports by broadcaster TV2 that the service feared the terrorists could strike on Monday. Both TV2 and newspaper Aftenposten reported that their sources claimed PST’s threat assessment specifically named Monday, which is when the festival of id al-fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan for practicing Muslims. PST did confirm earlier on Friday that the terrorist threat was based on intelligence that a group of extreme Islamists had left Syria with the goal of carrying out a terror attack on Norway.

More security measures
Humlegård said transport preparedness was being stepped up, and extra visible and civilian police officers would remain on patrol all weekend. He said they were considering whether to raise the police reserve to a higher level of readiness, and it could also be necessary to call on Norway’s defense forces and national guard for more resources.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Humlegård was well aware that the vagueness of the threat had created both a sense of security and insecurity. “We still do not know what the threat involves,” he said. “It is not time- or place-specific, and is not specific against people, places or objects. We will now show that we are on high alert, so that those who have evil intentions will know that, and so that the response time is much shorter than it has been previously.”

Humlegård said people should just go about their everyday lives, and adhere to advice from the authorities. “We ask that individuals are vigilant and report if something is suspicious,” he said. “We are looking for potential terrorists, but don’t know who they are or what they look like. We do not want to create unnecessary insecurity. It is more likely that nothing will happen. But we must align ourselves after the threat situation which indicates that police must scale up their preparedness.”

‘We must live our lives’
Foreign Minister Børge Brende, back in Norway after dealing with the latest Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza, held a press conference at Stiklestad north of Trondheim, which he was visiting in connection with the annual outdoor performances held in connection with the late summer Olsok and St Olaf’s Day festivities The events attract large crowds, but Brende told NRK he saw no reason to alter his schedule, and the public should also move forward with their personal plans.

“We consider the terror threat to be credible and we have taken some steps which are necessary to protect national security,” Brende said. “Among other things, readiness is increased in several places. We do not let ourselves be affected by this kind of threat, we take it seriously, but we must also live our lives.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate