Analysis: Jihadist networks have long singled out Norway

For a country that hands out the Nobel Peace Prize and spends more on foreign aid per capita than any other nation, it might seem surprising that Norway would be a target for terrorists.

As of yet there has been no claim of responsibility as to who might have carried out today’s bomb blast, but suspicions will inevitably fall on Islamist militants.

Jihadist networks have long singled out Norway as a legitimate – if low priority – target. As early as 2003 al-Qa’ida’s then number two and now leader Ayman al-Zawahiri specifically called on militants to attack the country in an audiotape condemning the invasion of Iraq. Norway also continues to have a small contingent of troops in northern Afghanistan.

“Norway is part of Nato’s mission in Afghanistan and as far as jihadists are concerned, any country involved in what they see as an illegal occupation of Muslim territory is a legitimate target,” explains James Brandon, an expert on Isalmist militancy at the Quilliam Foundation.

In the worldview of Islamist militants, Norway is a minor member of the international “Jewish-Crusader” alliance spearheading the invasion and subjugation of Muslim lands. But although it was on al-Qa’ida’s hit list it was never viewed as a high priority target.

That gradually began to change in 2005 following the publication of the Danish cartoons picturing the Prophet Mohammed and the widespread protests that they provoked. Militant networks seized on the propaganda coup and began to call for attacks on Scandinavian countries fuelled by the belief that Denmark, Norway and Sweden are one and the same.

When crowds went on the rampage in Damascus following the cartoon controversy it was no coincidence that the Norwegian embassy was burned alongside the Danish one.

After a handful of newspapers reprinted the cartoons, Abu Yahya al-Libbi, one of al-Qa’ida’s most influential Islamic scholars, released a videotape calling for reprisal attacks specifically naming Norway, Denmark and France.

At the epicentre of the controversy, it is the Danes who have had to confront the bulk of militant attacks with police claiming to have foiled numerous bomb and murder plots since 2005.

But Sweden and Norway have also found themselves inextricably drawn into the global Islamist conflict partly because they are regarded as softer targets than high priority countries like Britain, the United States and France.

Last summer Norwegian police arrested an Uzbek, Uighur and a Kurdish Iraqi on terror charges. Prosecutors said the men were linked to East Turkistan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Jihad Union, an Uighur and Uzbek militant group respectively which both have close links to Al Qa’ida central in Pakistan.

In November Sweden’s police raised the country’s terrorist threat level citing a “shift in activities” among jihadi networks inside the country. The following month Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi born Swedish citizen, blew himself up in the centre of Stockholm. Fortunately only one of the six pipe bombs he had strapped to his chest exploded. Al-Abdaly was the only fatality.

But the bombing nonetheless marked the first time a violent Islamist had managed to detonate a device on Scandinavian soil. If jihadis did carry out today’s attack they have passed a new milestone – the first civilians deaths from an Islamist explosion in Scandinavian history.

Houriya Ahmed, a terrorism expert at the henry jackson Society, remarked: “No-one should be surprised if this bombing turns out to be a jihadist attack as Norway has been in the past been threatened by terror networks. What is particularly concerning about this attack is that whoever is responsible has managed to manufacture and successfully detonate a massive bomb. That is something al-Qa’ida linked groups have had difficulty doing in Europe since the July since 7 attacks in London.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?