Bloomberg News

Norway Downgrades Terror Threat as Top Soccer Battle Begins

July 28, 2014

Security in Norway

Armed police patrol the Central railway station in Oslo because of reports of a possible terrorist attack, on July 25, 2014. Photographer: Heiko Junge/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Police in Norway said the threat of an imminent terrorist attack against the Scandinavian nation was reduced as security forces continue to analyze intelligence in an effort to assess the risk level.

“The threat of a terror attack against Norway is somewhat reduced,” Benedicte Bjoernland, head of security service PST, told reporters in Oslo yesterday. “The situation is still serious, and it’s not clarified. We’re now working with great intensity to get clarification.”

Security services said on July 24 that Norway could be the target of a terrorist attack within days by combatants returning from the conflict in Syria. Police are now considering how to adjust their preparedness to address the new risk level, Director Odd Reidar Humlegaard said.

“We’ve received a lot of information of high quality” laying the basis for the new assessment, Bjoernland said. She wouldn’t comment on whether there have been arrests. She also said the situation could change quickly.

The reduced threat level came as Norway opened the world’s biggest soccer tournament, hosting as many as 50,000 players and spectators a day through Aug. 2. Though about 10 teams pulled out of the event following the terror alert, the Norway Cup organizers said they had worked closely with security services to ensure safety.

Anxiety, Fear

Uniformed and undercover police officers are patrolling the sports fields, carrying guns. Attendees yesterday included Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

“The terrorists want to create anxiety and fear,” she told reporters. “The best we can do is stand together and not let it affect us.”

Police in Scandinavia’s richest nation per capita are investigating whether 15 residents who fought in Syria’s three-year-old civil war have been in contact with people expected to return to Norway to commit acts of terror, Jon Fitje Hoffmann, a director at PST told radio broadcaster NRK.

The terror alert follows a May attack at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels by a man authorities said may be the first European jihadist returning from Syria to carry out a deadly mission at home. The alleged perpetrator, Mehdi Nemmouche, is awaiting trial for the shooting deaths of two Israeli tourists, a French woman and a Belgian museum employee.

Police, Parliament

Norwegian police estimate that about 50 people seen as posing a threat have left Norway to fight in Syria, and about half of those have since returned, spokesman Trond Hugubakken said July 24.

Police officers in Oslo are stationed at focal points in the city including parliament and the royal palace as well as at shopping centers, spokesman Kaare Hansen said by phone. Authorities have followed up on a number of tips, police said, without providing more details.

Authorities in Bergen, on Norway’s west coast, have reopened airspace over the city center after closing it July 26 amid security concerns, Bergens Tidende reported, citing local police. Bergen held an international race for tall ships between July 24 and July 27.

News of the latest threat to Norway came just two days after the country marked the third anniversary of the massacre of 77 people, most of them linked to the Labor Party that was in government at the time, by Anders Behring Breivik.

The 35-year-old, who is serving a 21-year prison sentence, has said his acts were meant to prevent the spread of what he called “cultural Marxism” and the “Islamization” of Europe.

More than 170,000 people have died and over 10 million have fled their homes since civil war broke out in Syria in March 2011. The United Nations and aid agencies say the conflict is the worst humanitarian disaster since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, with 6.5 million people displaced inside Syria and 3 million more seeking refuge outside the country.

To contact the reporters on this story: Saleha Mohsin in Oslo at smohsin2@bloomberg.net; Mikael Holter in Oslo at mholter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tasneem Hanfi Brogger at tbrogger@bloomberg.net; Christian Wienberg at cwienberg@bloomberg.net Alastair Reed


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