Police armed as terror threat rises

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Norway’s normally unarmed state police started carrying weapons on a temporary basis Thursday. They cited a higher threat of terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic and right-wing extremists, following a new evaluation of the overall terror threat by police intelligence unit PST.

It’s been a while since police were routinely armed in Norway. This photo was taken in 2015. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

State Police Director Benedicte Bjørnland told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the threat levels posed by both Islamic and right-ring extremists were nearing each other. PST, however, indicated that it was more “probable” that an attack motivated by extreme Islamists would be carried out by a single individual targeting either public gatherings or “symbols” including either police- or defense personnel.

PST’s evaluation and the police arming follows recent attacks in Europe by radical Islamists angered over recent depictions of their prophet Mohammed. Extra security reportedly has also been posted around the synagogue in Oslo.

Tensions have risen, not least in France, because of conflicts between freedom of expression and cases in which such free expression deeply offends Muslims.

“We have seen that the threat picture has been sharpened,” Bjørnland, who formerly led PST, told NRK. “We may face attacks involving the use of knives, vehicles and also firing arms and explosives. The ability to respond quickly is crucial.”

Operative police personnel with weapons experience will thus start carrying guns in a holster for the next three weeks. The threat outlook will determine whether the arming will be extended.

“We will follow PST’s evaluation,” Bjørnland said, describing the threat situation at present as “serious.” PST noted in its evaluation that the recent attacks by lone Islamic terrorists in Vienna and Nice “are a reminder that the police must always be prepared for unwanted incidents.”

PST categorized the threat level in Norway as “moderate,” but noted that the threat from Islamic extremists had risen since the summer.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund