It’s been a long hot summer for Prime Minister Erna Solberg, but with the terror threat against Norway appearing to ease, she’s finally going to join her family for some holiday abroad. She made a point of appearing at the huge Norway Cup football tournament going on in the Oslo area this week, and once again urged Norwegians to carry on as usual with everyday life.
“I’m here to see this great tournament, but also to show that it’s safe to be out and about in Norway,” Solberg told reporters as players, aides and Norway Cup organizers flocked around her. Sunday was the tournament’s opening day for matches, with around 32,000 youth from 55 countries taking part.
While some local teams opted to stay home this year, only around 15 of a total of 1,560 had dropped out by Sunday night. “I certainly feel safe here,” Solberg told state broadcaster NRK. “The organizers have done a great job and safety always comes first.” The event was proceeding without disruption and police in Oslo announced Monday that their patrols would be reduced from tomorrow as the threat level eased.
Solberg stayed in Norway last week even though she was finally due to go on holiday with her family. July is the traditional summer holiday period in Norway, but Solberg’s husband, daughter and son traveled alone when the prime minister suddenly had to stay home to deal with the terror threat against Norway that was publicly announced on Thursday. On Sunday, police announced that the threat was “somewhat reduced” but that preparedness for a possible unspecified attack would remain high through Monday. Officials in Bergen, meanwhile, reopened the air space that was closed over the downtown area on Saturday when an estimated half-a-million people were in the west coast city for the Tall Ships Races.
Solberg has had a busy summer since Parliament recessed in late June, wrapping up her government’s first term in office, traveling to Italy, South Africa, Malawi and Rwanda, meeting with the US Attorney General, traveling around Norway and taking part last week in memorials to the victims of the terrorist attacks on Norway in 2011.
The new threat of terrorism seemed to catch everyone by surprise, but Solberg’s government was determined to show that the country was prepared to deal with it, not least after all the criticism over a lack of preparedness for the attacks on July 22, 2011. A state crisis team made up of 15 officials from the government, police, rescue and security apparatus met in a commando room at the Justice Ministry on Wednesday night and have reconvened several times every day since. while Solberg, Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, Finance Minister Siv Jensen and security coordinator Laila Bukhari from the Office of the Prime Minister also huddled Friday night as well. Anundsen has been leading the government response, and pushing through special measures and funding to allow a massive build-up of police staffing backed by military cooperation as needed. Jensen will take over as acting prime minister when Solberg is away on holiday.
A public opinion poll conducted for newspaper VG showed that only half of all Norwegians think the police and preparedness teams are able to fend off a terrorist attack on Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reported, however, that public confidence seemed relatively high and random interviews conducted by state broadcaster NRK have shown that Norwegians welcomed the extra security checks that have turned up in recent days at border crossings, airports, train stations and harbours. “I’m glad to see all the armed police stopping everyone,” one woman told NRK as she disembarked in Oslo from the Color Line cruise-ferry arriving from Germany Saturday morning. “It makes me feel safe.”
Norway’s participation in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, extremist hatred against western nations and the steadily rising number of Norwegian Islamists who have left Norway to fight in Syria have been mentioned as the main reasons why Norway reportedly has emerged as a terrorist target. Around 50 Norwegian citizens are believed to have joined Islamic extremist organizations in Syria and Iraq, with some of them rising in the ranks of their hierarchies, like the young man from Skien who recently was featured on a video from the brutal extremist group ISIL that’s invading Iraq and the young man from Nesodden in Akershus, just across the fjord from Oslo, who’s been listed as a terrorist threatening the US. Reports were also circulating over the weekend that one of ISIL’s suicide bombers in Iraq this month was Norwegian. He was killed in his suicide attack that also killed four Iraqi soldiers and four civilians outside Baghdad.