Terrorism in Norwegian Part I

Terrorism in Norwegian 1

The terrorist attacks in Oslo and on Utøya on July 22 were among the largest in Europe ever. The whole country was affected, but the attack was aimed directly at the Labor Party, AUF and the government apparatus. In particular, it was young, idealistic and politically engaged people who were killed this Black Friday in Norwegian history.

  • 07 – crazy man’s solo work, or part of a larger terrorist connection?
  • Who are the terrorists?
  • Which terrorists can be a threat in Norway?
  • What characterizes Norwegian – especially right-wing radical – terrorism?

During the decade that has passed since September 11, 2001 – when the deadliest terrorist attack in world history hit the United States – there have been a number of terrorist attacks. Of those who have received the most attention in Norway are:

  • the bombing of a train in Madrid in 2004. 191 killed
  • the London attacks in 2005. 52 killed
  • hostage action against a school in Beslan in North Ossetia (Russia) in 2004. At least 385 were killed, many of them children
  • the bombing of a Moscow airport in 2011. At least 37 people were killed
  • the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India in 2008. 164 killed

According to Homethodology, all of these attacks were carried out by radical Islamists and several of them by terrorists linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network (Arabic for “base”). However, the motives were not purely religious ; all the attacks also had political sides .

2: One-sided focus – right-wing extremists forgotten

That the media image has been dominated by these very bloody attacks is hardly surprising, but at the same time it has led to both the authorities, the media and politicians to a small extent concentrating on other forms of terrorism. The threat assessments from the Police Security Service (PST) have focused far more strongly on the threat from (international) Islamist terrorism than on potential terrorist threats from left-wing extremists, right-wing extremists or from so-called one-man terrorists (eg radical animal protection activists). In Norwegian terrorist history, however, right-wing extremist terrorism has been the most common .

It includes a number of arson attacks aimed at asylum reception centers in the 1980s and 1990s. By and large, this also applies to a bomb attack on a bookstore in Tromsø in 1977 and the bombing of a May 1 train in Oslo in 1979. Perhaps the best example of the potential for violence in Norwegian right-wing extremism before July 22, 2011 took place in 1985, only a few days before Eid al-fitr (id), the three-day celebration marking the end of the Islamic fast. Then a mosque (Normoské) in Oslo was attacked with a bomb. What could have been a mass slaughter did not happen. The communal meal in the mosque cellar had that evening happened to be moved to a private apartment.

It soon became clear that the perpetrator was a nineteen-year-old Norwegian, Ole Kristian B. He was eventually indicted in the case, along with four other members of the far-right group National People’s Party. The perpetrator was sentenced to five years in prison and served three and a half years. During his time in prison, it dawned on him what he had been through. In an interview with Aftenposten in 1994, he said that the biggest danger in the right-wing extremist circles is that you are easily isolated , and that you do not receive corrections from the outside world:

– I compare it to extreme religious groups, where parents have to kidnap their son or daughter to get them away from the environment. This is how it is in the nationalist movement as well. You are completely absorbed and lose all counter-perceptions. The environment offers you an ideology that means you do not have to think for yourself.

Norway has also experienced what can be defined as Islamist terrorism: the unsolved assassination attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Norwegian publisher William Nygaard in 1993, the shooting at the synagogue in Oslo in September 2006 and alleged terrorist plans revealed in 2010. As the last two examples show, it has The real terrorist scene in Norway in recent years has been marked by Islamism, until 22 July 2011.

3: Who commits terrorist acts?

But what does the international picture look like? Are all terrorists Muslims? Obviously not. Are almost all terrorists Muslims? No, that’s not true either. Worldwide, the US National Counterterrorism Center refers to 11,500 terrorist attacks in 72 different countries in 2010. They define about 60 percent of these as Sunni extremism (Sunni and Shia are the two main directions in Islam, but the proportion of attacks carried out by Shia extremists is low). However, very many of these attacks took place in countries with civil war – Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia – and for that reason they will not necessarily fall under all terrorist definitions.

In Europe, Russia has experienced the most terrorist attacks in recent years, and in recent years the country has experienced attacks carried out by both Sunni extremists (Islamists) and right-wing extremists. In 2010, several bloody terrorist attacks were carried out in Russia by Islamists. The airport attack in January 2011 was carried out by the so-called Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade, led by the Chechen Islamist Doku Umarov.

The bloodiest of the far-right attacks took place in 2006, when a bomb went off at a market in Moscow in mid-August. The marketplace is known for its many (Central) Asian traders, and the perpetrators – eight were convicted in 2008 – belonged to the extremist nationalist organization Salvation. The attack claimed 13 lives.

The European police organization Europol also compiles statistics on terrorism in Europe. However, these reports do not cover the whole continent – Russia has been left out, among other things – and can therefore give a somewhat misleading impression. Another reason why the figures should be taken with a pinch of salt is that different member states in police cooperation define terrorism “in different ways. What in one country is defined as a terrorist attack, in another can be considered a more “ordinary” episode of violence.

Figures from Europol show that of 249 terrorist attacks carried out or prevented in 2010, most – 160 – were carried out by separatists (movements seeking independence for an area, such as Basque and Corsican nationalists). 45 terrorist cases were registered from left-wing extremists and anarchists, most in Italy and Greece. No far-right terrorism was recorded. Three of the cases are attributed to Islamism (two of them in Denmark, one in Sweden), and one single case (in Greece) is described as “single-case terrorism”. 40 cases in the UK are not included in any category.

Although it is important in Europe, separatist terrorism is hardly a central part of the threat picture in Norway. There are no active separatist movements in Norway – at least none that can be described as serious – and an attack from e.g. Basque separatists in this country seem extremely unlikely. At the same time, Islamist-motivated terrorism in our neighboring countries shows that this is a threat that must also be taken seriously in Norway.

In addition to this, both left-wing extremist terrorism – despite the lack of traditions for such on the far left in Norway – and right-wing extremist terrorism, should be part of the threat assessment in this country in the future. One can also imagine one-on-one terrorism from, for example, extreme animal rights activists, especially if attacks on property are included in the definition of terrorism.

Terrorism in Norwegian 1