A 17-year-old Russian citizen who came to Norway as a refugee remained in custody Monday after police confirmed that he had a homemade explosive device that led to a major terror alarm in Oslo Saturday night. The teenager denies he planned any terrorist attack.
Norway’s police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) thinks otherwise and have charged him with illegal possession of explosive materials. They described his explosive device as “primitive, with limited damage potential,” but it posed a big enough threat Saturday night that police cordoned off a large portion of Oslo’s Grønland district and a police bomb squad destroyed the device.
PST chief Benedicte Bjørnland announced Sunday that the terror threat in Norway had been raised following Saturday night’s drama and a terrorist attack in Stockholm on Friday. The latter had already prompted Norwegian police to re-arm while security over the border to Sweden was tightened.
“We have not clarified whether the 17-year-old had intentions of carrying out a terrorist attack,” Bjørnland said. It was also unclear whether others were also involved in Saturday’s bomb scare, but PST officials confirmed that the teenager had been under watch. They wouldn’t specify why, but newspaper VG reported that he allegedly had expressed support for the terrorist organization ISIL.
His defense attorney, Aase Karine Sigmond, denied her client had any connections to ISIL: “He says he is not a radical and not an Islamist, and he distances himself from ISIL and from radical Islamists.”
Bjørnland confirmed that the 17-year-old came to Norway with his family as asylum seekers from Russia seven years ago and he later was granted permanent residence. He had been living with his family in Northern Norway were VG reported he was active in a wrestling organization. He moved to Oslo to attend high school.
Sigmond said he is fluent in Norwegian and is well-integrated in Norwegian society. “He’s a child, 17 years old, he’s sitting in isolation and has been presented with serious charges,” she told reporters. She was trying to get him transferred to more “usual” prison conditions when he faced a custody hearing on Monday.