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
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn