Norway attacks: the latest terror strikes in Western Europe
Details are still sketchy on who carried out the Oslo bombing, but Norwegian police are also connecting it to a gunmen who attacked a political youth camp shortly after.
The Oslo car bomb attack on the offices of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (he wasn't there at the time and is unharmed) today, and the rampage of a gunman at a Labor Party youth camp on an island outside Oslo soon after, have stunned Norway. Norwegians have been changing their Facebook statuses to maps of their homeland, flags, and "I love Oslo" logos.Skip to next paragraph
The Arab League observer mission in Syria is likely to fail
Egypt's military rulers crack down on democracy groups
Iran's threats over Strait of Hormuz? Understandable, but not easy
Eastern Libya poll indicates political Islam will closely follow democracy
Iraq's Maliki threatens, Sunnis grumble, and Baghdad goes boom
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The safe and prosperous country appears to be in a state of collective shock. At least seven were killed in the Oslo attack. The shootings appear to have killed at least nine, but there are unconfirmed reports of many more casualties from the small island where they took place.
On social media, comments like "this is our 9/11" have been common. Who is responsible is still unknown. Norwegians are saying this is the single most violent day in the country since the end of World War II, when the Nazis occupied the country. The timing of the incidents, and the connection of both to Mr. Stoltengberg (he was scheduled to visit the Labor Party youth gathering on Utoya Island today), have the local police saying they're tangentially related.
But that connection isn't confirmed. Who could have done it?
Well, Al Qaeda and other violent Islamist groups have issued threats against Norway dating back to 2003. Those threats intensified after Denmark's Jylland's Posten newspaper published cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in 2005 (one of the cartoonists was Norwegian and a Norwegian paper reprinted some of the cartoons). Threats have also been issued repeatedly because of the small military force Norway has working with NATO in Afghanistan.
Last summer, Norway arrested three men for planning terrorist attacks. Two of the men, an Iraqi Kurd and a Chinese Uighur, both with legal Norwegian residency, confessed to planning attacks. One said the plan was to attack Jylland's Posten, while the other said the target was the Chinese Embassy in Oslo. The country also hosts Mullah Krekar, the leader of the Iraqi Kurdish Ansar al-Islam. That group was Al Qaeda's earliest ally in Iraq, and was blamed for a number of terror-style attacks in the early years of the conflict, including the murder of about 60 Kurdish politicians in the city of Arbil in 2004.
Mullah Krekar has legal Norwegian residency and a number of his family members are Norwegian citizens. He fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq for Norway in 1991. Last week, he was arrested for allegedly threatening Norwegian politicians with retaliation if they ever decided to deport him (Iraq, particularly Kurdish authorities, has wanted to put him on trial since 2003; Norway has been concerned about insufficient evidence of guilt in any crimes and about Iraq's use of the death penalty). Could supporters of Krekar have done it? Well, since the threat of violence was meant to forestall his deportation, that doesn't make much sense – if evidence ties this attack to his supporters, it's hard to see him regaining his freedom.