Norway bomb plot shows reach of Al Qaeda-linked groups
An Uzbek, a Uighur, and a Kurdish Iraqi were arrested Thursday in a Norway bomb plot described as linked to Al Qaeda – and to planners of foiled attacks in New York and in the UK.
The arrest by Norwegian police today of an Uzbek, a Uighur, and a Kurdish Iraqi – all described as being linked to Al Qaeda – shows the ability of jihadi groups to better organize abroad in a united front where race or nationality is ever less a determining factor, analysts say.Skip to next paragraph
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“The group is connected to the Al Qaeda network and the case has links to the US and Great Britain,” said Janne Kristiansen, head of Norway's Police Security Service, without going further into what those links are.
Coming at a time when many combatants killed or captured in Afghanistan, Waziristan, and Pakistan are discovered to be from nations as wide-ranging as Uzbekistan, Egypt, and Yemen – the arrests in Norway show the ability of a well-connected transnational Islamic group to bring widely differing individuals together.
“Whether it is organized by Al Qaeda or a new group, we are seeing varied nationalities coming together under one banner…. They are not yet realizing their aims, but are taking first steps, connecting and planning,” says Maha Azzam, a specialist at Chatham House, an international research group in London. “Despite different Islamic contexts…there is a thread that is bonding these individuals in the name of a cause.”
In many cases, including the 9/11 attacks, whose participants were mostly Saudis, coordination is often dominated by one nationality or ethnic group -- be it Saudi or Pashtun.
The arrest of the three men, two in Norway and one in Germany, took place after a year of surveillance by Norwegian authorities; the decision to arrest came after unnamed members of the “international media” had discovered the investigation, Norwegian police said. The men were said to be preparing homemade peroxide bombs not unlike the one that failed to go off in the New York subway in 2009.
The Norwegian plot was linked to the same terrorist planners behind that failed attack and one aimed at a British shopping mall. The Associated Press reported that US and Norwegian counterterrorism officials worked together on the Norwegian plot, officials said. Ms. Kristiansen traveled to the US this spring to review intelligence from in the case.
A Norwegian police statement described those arrested as “Person 1,” a Chinese Uighur that came to Norway in the late 1990s as a refugee who was granted citizenship in 2007. “Person 2” is an Iraqi Kurd arriving in the late 1990s and holding Norwegian permanent residence status. And “Person 3” is an Uzbek asylum seeker in the early 2000s who was later granted permanent residence. All three are in their 30s.