Terror blast in Oslo – “massive vehicle bomb; gunman fires on kids’ camp;” Update: Norway had taken action against jihadi cleric who threatened to kill politicians; Update: domestic terrorism suspected–Anders Behring Breivik; a cryptic Twitter message, curious social media trail; At least 80 youths killed, police say
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George Gooding (Seixon) passes along this photo of a massive bomb blast at government offices in Oslo:
Not much on the wires yet. USA Today has this:
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten quotes witnesses as saying Oslo’s Market Street is “full of chaos” with people “running around bewildered,” some with blood on their faces and hands. “You can smell the sulfur fumes,” the newspaper’s reporter says.
Update: More details. The targets were the Prime Minister’s office and an Oil Ministry building, which remains on fire.
FYI: Yes, there is a militant Muslim presence in Oslo. See this.
And this: Mullah Krekar claims Islam will win.
And this looks like a good excuse for a jihadi bombing, doesn’t it:
A Norwegian prosecutor has filed terror charges against an Iraqi-born cleric for threatening Norwegian politicians with death if he’s deported from the Nordic country.
The indictment, obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, centers on statements that Mullah Krekar — the founder of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam — made to various media, including American network NBC.
Norway ordered Krekar deported in 2005 after declaring him a national security threat, but the decision was suspended amid worries he would face execution or torture in Iraq.
At a news conference in June 2010, Krekar said that if he’s deported to Iraq and is killed there, Norwegian officials would meet the same fate. He singled out former asylum policy minister Erna Solberg.
Prosecutor Marit Bakkevik said Krekar’s statements violated Norwegian terror laws and were meant to force authorities to halt the deportation order and to instill fear in Norwegian society.
The indictment also highlights comments Krekar made to NBC’s news program “The Wanted” in 2009. Krekar told the program the American people deserved the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and he condoned suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq. Bakkevik said the statements amounted to incitement of such attacks.
Update: You’ll love the reaction I got on Twitter from the experts at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) when I pointed out the story about Mullah Krekar.
Update: Police report a “massive vehicle bomb” was the source of the blast. Norwegian Twitter users reporting that police may be searching for more bombs.
The Atlantic…Al Qaeda’s problem with Norway
CSM: Details emerge of domestic terror suspect…
Norwegian Radio cited a witness who said the gunman spoke Norwegian and described him as tall and blonde. Mr. Storberget said it was unclear if the man was acting alone.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg remained defiant in the face of the attacks and said any guilty parties would be brought to justice.
“We will find the guilty and hold them responsible,” he said at the press conference. “No one will bomb us to silence. No one will shoot us to silence. No one will ever scare us away from being Norway.”
Both events are likely to prompt soul-searching in Norway, and many citizens are likely to suspect Islamic militants, says Iver Neumann, a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
“Norwegian forces are currently involved in two wars, Afghanistan and Libya. Parts of the Norwegian media participated in the Danish caricature campaign [of the prophet Muhammad] in 2005. We know that Al Qaeda has put Norway on a list of potential targets,” says Mr. Neumann. “There will certainly be a debate about Norway’s relationship with Islam. And there will be a debate about the level of security we afford to our leaders.”
Norwegians are in a state of shock after a powerful explosion in Oslo’s government quarter. Police have confirmed that seven people are dead and more than a dozen were injured in the attack, which damaged the prime minister’s office and the oil ministry.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg was not near the site of the blast and was unharmed.
Then the police announced that they had arrested a 32-year-old suspect who, they emphasized with what seemed like relief or even joy, was a tall, blond ethnic Norwegian (one police spokesman even called him an “ethnic Norwegian Norwegian,” a turn of phrase that Norwegians would describe as “smør på flesk” – i.e., putting butter on bacon, or, as we’d say in English, gilding the lily). They insisted that the suspect (although they described him not as a suspect but as a “perpetrator”) had no connection to a terrorist group, though when asked about other connections he might have, they seemed to dodge the question.
One can only imagine the backroom politics going on at Norwegian police agencies right around now.
Via the Washington Post:
In the immediate aftermath of the attack in Oslo, speculation about the party that might be responsible has centered on Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish militant group that has been tied by U.S. officials to al-Qaeda and that carried out attacks on American troops and civilians in Iraq at the height of the war there.
Norway’s contingent in Afghanistan, or even its “cartoon crisis” of 2006, could make the country a target for any number of terrorist groups, as the Atlantic has noted.
The U.S. ambassador to Norway, Barry White, said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon that investigators were still assembling information about the attacks and had not reached any conclusions on who was responsible.
“They’re still looking at it,” White said. “Often times the early answers are the wrong ones.”
[Note from editors: In subsequent news reports, officials said the attacker was a Norwegian man.]
Still, Ansar — a Sunni group that has been formally designated a terrorist organization by the United States — could make good sense if for no other reason than the timing of the attack.
As J.M. Berger notes over at Foreign Policy, the group’s founder, known as Mullah Krekar, was arrested just last week for allegedly threatening Norwegian politicians with death if he were deported from the country.
Krekar, an Iraqi Kurd, has lived in Norway since being granted political asylum there two decades ago. He was once reportedly the target of a failed abduction attempt by the CIA. And Norway has previously attempted to deport him, only to suspend the move out of fears that he could be tortured if sent back to Iraq.
While he has acknowledged being a founder of Ansar, Krekar has denied any link to terrorism; other Ansar leaders have also denied any links to al-Qaeda.
Norway has far-right groups with a history of commiting political violence. It also has a major terrorism trial opening in October, which could also make it a target by al-Qaeda-linked groups.
Norwegian authorities are prosecuting two men who were arrested last year for allegedly planning attacks in Oslo and Denmark. They were also linked to plots in the United States and Britain, including a planned attack on the New York subway.
Update 8:06pm Eastern
Details on the suspect now out: Anders Behring Breivik.
The 32-year-old Norwegian man arrested for gunning down children on the holiday island of Utoya has been named locally as Anders Behring Breivik.
Described as 6ft tall and blond, he is reported to have arrived on the island of Utoya and opened fire after beckoning several young people over in his native Norwegian tongue.
Reports suggest he was also seen loitering around the site of the bomb blast in Oslo two hours before the island incident – and also before the capital’s explosion.
More than 30 are believed to have been killed – seven in Oslo and between 25 to 30 on Utoya Island, 50 miles north of the capital.
Police have said the attacks do not appear to be linked to Islamist terrorism.
But initially It was not known what his motives were – whether he had been radicalised and was part of a militant Muslim group waging Jihad or was alternatively trying to further a home-grown political cause.
Update: Here is a cryptic Twitter message from Sunday in the name of “Anders B. Breivik”…”One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.”
More: “Right-wing tendencies.”
We will wait to see what details emerge and I will continue to update this post. As the above WaPo article and countless Mainstream Media stories throughout the day noted, the context and timing most definitely suggested jihad and there should be no apology for reading the signs and connecting several large, obvious dots.
Unlike those who speculated that the Giffords’ shooter was a Tea Party activist and held onto the assumption even after it was disproved, I will not continue to insist that jihadists bear blame for this heinous attack if it turns out they played no role.
I will continue to be vigilant in thoroughly covering the global jihadist threat — and in condemning this heinous attack in Norway whoever is responsible.
Prayers for all the innocents. Standing with Norway.
Update: Absolute evil…At least 80 youths killed at the camp, according to police.
Update: Latest from the NYTimes includes more details about Breikvik and also this…
After the shooting the police seized a 32-year-old Norwegian man on the island, according to the police and Justice Minister Knut Storberget. He was later identified as Anders Behring Breivik and was characterized by officials as a right-wing extremist.
The acting chief of police, Sveinung Sponheim, said Mr. Breivik, who is not known to have any ties to Islamic extremists, had also been seen in Oslo before the explosions. The police and other authorities declined to say what the suspect’s motivations might have been, but many speculated that the target was Mr. Stoltenberg’s liberal government.
…Initial reports focused on the possibility of Islamic militants, in particular Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or Helpers of the Global Jihad, cited by some analysts as claiming responsibility for the attacks. American officials said the group was previously unknown and might not even exist.
Still, there was ample reason for concern that terrorists might be responsible. In 2004 and again in 2008, the No. 2 leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over after the death of Osama bin Laden, threatened Norway because of its support of the American-led NATO military operation in Afghanistan.
Norway has about 550 soldiers and three medevac helicopters in northern Afghanistan, a Norwegian defense official said. The government has indicated that it will continue to support the Afghan operations as long as the alliance needs partners on the ground.
Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking Al Qaeda’s signature brutality and multiple attacks.
Update: Here’s a short piece on Breivik’s odd and brief social media trail — including the Facebook account opened only days ago.
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