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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Parliament reopened after threats

Police cordoned off Norway’s Parliament building (Stortinget) on Wednesday after two “unclear threats” raised security concerns. It was pretty much business as usual inside, though, and three government ministers didn’t escape being grilled in the national assembly’s weekly question hour.

Norway’s Parliament building (Stortinget) is located in the heart of downtown Oslo, and was thus cordoned off when some “unclear threats” were lodged against the building on Wednesday PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no

Among them was the country’s government minister in charge of justice and preparedness, Emilie Enger Mehl. She calmly responded to questions about safety issues from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and other media, after being questioned on policy issues by Members of Parliament.

“It’s good that (police and the Parliament’s own security forces) addressed this immediately,” Mehl told NRK. She stressed that she had full confidence in how the unusual situation was being handled, including measures that barred anyone from entering or leaving the Parliament from mid-morning on Wednesday. By 12:30pm, police were removing their barriers around the building that also extended for a few blocks in various directions. Police could also be seen on watch from the tower of the Grand Hotel located next door to the plaza in front of the Parliament.

All Members of Parliament had received a text message from the Parliament’s administration around 10am that all of the building’s entrances had been closed “because of an unclear security situation. No one can come in or go out. More information will follow.” An update was sent out shortly after 11am that the situation was still unclear, that all entrances and exits remained closed but that there were “no indications it was dangerous” to remain inside the building.

Justice Minister Mehl said it was “uncomfortable and unacceptable” when threats are lodged “against democracy and the Parliament,” but supported the decision that meetings and the open session continued as scheduled. Mehl, Trade Minister Jan Christian Vestre and Energy Minister Terje Aasland were among those who received word of the building’s closure while they sat inside the Parliament’s main assembly room.

Police eventually confirmed two bomb threats, and specially trained dogs were unleashed around the building and seen sniffing round the walls, garbage cans and planter boxes. A police spokesman told reporters that two threats had come in, via an email Tuesday night and another Wednesday morning, adding that “we couldn’t be sure they were pure nonsense.” As the situation normalized he said the police were now concentrating on who was behind the threats. They’d already determined who made the first threat, and the suspect “was under control” but hadn’t been formally arrested and charged.

Parliament President Masud Gharahkhani of the Labour Party told NRK that “threats against the heart of our democracy are quite serious.” He said it was important to keep Norway’s Parliament open and accessible, and that its administration was in “close dialog” with police and Norway’s domestic intelligence agency PST. The threats also disrupted public transport routes near the Parliament but the area was soon declared safe for traffic to resume.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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