Around 250 people working on the construction site of the new US Embassy in Oslo were evacuated Tuesday after a “suspicious item” was found in a container. Police said the item was placed there “to generate fear.”
Police were called to the site at Huseby on Oslo’s west side after the item resembling a bomb was found. “We sent several units to evaluate it, and chose to call in the police bomb squad,” Line Skott, oeprations leader for the Oslo Police, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
The item was found inside the cordoned-off area around the site, but outside the building that will house the new embassy.
The bomb squad determined that the item did not contain any explosives and it was destroyed. “But it’s clear that it was made (and placed at the embassy site) to generate fear,” said Christian Krohn Engeseth of the Oslo Police.
He wouldn’t describe the item nor would embassy officials, who later sent out a statement that the “suspicious item” had been “destroyed by a Norwegian explosive ordinance disposal team.” The embassy added that “initial indications from Norwegian authorities are that the item was inert.”
The embassy reported that “normal operations” had resumed at the construction site by mid-afternoon, but police continued to investigate. “We don’t know how the item got there,” Engeseth said. “It was found inside a locked area at the the embassy site.” Police were securing evidence at the site and gathering photos from surveillance cameras posted at the site.
The incident also forced closure of the street running along the embassy property, Morgedalsveien. Workers chose to seek shelter inside the main embassy building that’s due to open later this year. The street was later reopened to thru traffic.
The embassy itself stated that it “appreciates the speedy and professional response of Norwegian authorities to this incident.” It’s likely to raise concerns for local residents, however, who protested mightily when the embassy chose the Huseby location after being offered several other sites for a new embassy in and around Oslo. The US Embassy is considered a terror target and both city and state officials were keen to see it move from its current location close to downtown and across the street from both the Royal Palace and Nobel Institute.
Construction of the new embassy has already been delayed several times, because of the neighbours’ protests and various court action. US officials spent years selecting a new site and signed a purchase agreement with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense for the land at Huseby in 2004. The project finally broke ground in 2012 after the neighbours’ various protests were ultimately rejected, but construction was halted once again in 2014 because of a payment conflict between its contractor and a concrete supplier.
Embassy officials were reluctant earlier this year to say when they’d be moving to the new site. “We’re hoping early this fall,” one official said at an event tied to the arrival of the new US ambassador last spring. In the meantime, the current embassy has remained open for business, also during Tuesday’s bomb scare.