Dramatic police operation draws flak

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UPDATED: A routine eviction case in Østfold County on Wednesday evolved into a heavily armed police operation involving evacuations, sharpshooters, a bomb squad and the arrest of a man in Rygge, south of Oslo. Now some local residents are complaining that they weren’t evacuated as well. 

“Many people were afraid and they didn’t get any information while it was all going on,” local retiree Rolf Thoresen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Thoresen, a member of an elder council in Våler, is also upset that the local elder center wasn’t alerted or evacuated when the nearby elementary school, a day care center and an entire residential neighbourhood were.

Uncooperative tenant
Police confirmed that the two operations in Rygge and Våler were related, but only later revealed that they involved threats made by a man facing eviction from his home. Police wouldn’t reveal why they had suddenly mounted such a major police operation when it was underway, nor would they offer any information about the man arrested or the charges filed against him.

As it turned out, the case involved his eviction in Våler. He had made it clear he would not cooperate with the eviction and when police arrived at the address in question they found items placed outside the house that were believed to be explosives. That’s what set off the initial alarms, called in the bomb squad and prompted the evictions, while other police hastened to the other address in Rygge where the evicted man was believed to be staying.

Police later  told reporters that they hadn’t found explosives after all. The suspicious items, that police believe were “strategically placed” outside the house in Våler “were not dangerous,” Anders Strømsæther of the Østfold Police District told NRK, and then the story behind the huge operation came out. The man arrested in Rygge underwent questioning Wednesday afternoon.

Operation under assessment
Police had cautioned people to stay away from both areas including the Rygge Hageby area where the man was arrested at Halmstad, just off the E6 highway and not far from the airport southeast of Moss. At Våler, the Våk elementary school that was evacuated has around 200 students in the first through seventh grades. The children from the school and the day care center, Våk barnehage, either walked or were driven by bus to the Sperrebotn shopping center where parents could come pick them up.

An employee at Sperrebotn, around a half-kilometer away from the evacuated area in Våler, said police had cordoned off the roads and that folks wondered what was going on. The road leading into the residential area at Våler was also cordoned off.

Thoresen later complained that the elder center was left out of the evacuations, given the risk involved. Police had no comment but bomb squad officials claimed police “did the right thing” by calling them in. Another local sheriff’s office has taken over investigation and assessment of the entire police operation.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund