Norway’s top police, intelligence gathering and justice ministry officials have called off the alarm they rang last week when they took the unusual step of announcing that the country was threatened by an imminent terror attack. One week later, “we are now back to normal,” said the head of Norway’s police intelligence unit PST, Benedicte Bjørnland.
“We faced the threat of a terrorist attack within a matter of days,” Bjørnland told reporters at a press conference Thursday evening. Bjørnland said the time period in which they feared the attack would take place has now passed, and PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) has concluded that the threat “is now reduced.”
She hastened to add that the risk of terrorist attacks remains. “The danger of attacks is a reality in our modern society,” she said. But new, “more detailed” information collected by PST during the past week now indicates that the “time-limited” threat the faced last Thursday had eased.
That means Norwegian police will stop being heavily armed, that armed patrols at train stations, airports, on the streets and elsewhere would be phased out and border control would “normalize.” In general, the unusually high state of alert will be reduced, but state police chief Odd Reidar Humlegård stressed that overall preparedness would be maintained.
“We are prepared that similar threats can crop up again,” Humlegård said at Thursday’s press conference in Oslo. “We recognize there is an ongoing, higher risk of terror.” He said he was pleased that police forces around the country had responded quickly to last week’s high threat level, that off-duty police had quickly answered calls to come in from summer holidays and that the police were quickly granted “the resources we needed” to carry out the past week’s high level of preparedness.
“We don’t know what this has cost, but it has all functioned better than ever before,” Humlegård claimed. He said a full accounting of the costs and an evaluation of the heightened levels of activity would be forthcoming.
Both he and Justice Minister Anders Anundsen defended their decision to go public with the threat facing Norway last week. “I would do just the same again,” Anundsen told reporters. Humlegård said that given the seriousness of the threat, it would have been “impossible for us” not to share it with the public. Anundsen added that it would have been “irresponsible” for the government and police not to have taken he still calls an “unspecified but credible and concrete” threat as seriously as they did.
Bjørnland acknowledged that public awareness of a threatened attack and the heightened preparedness may have averted it, “but we will never get an answer to that.”