Leading crime writer blames 'complacent' security forces

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The Independent Online

One of Norway's most celebrated crime writers has criticised the Norwegian security services, saying complacency had allowed 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik to massacre almost 100 people.

Anne Holt, a former government minister and prominent journalist before turning her hand to crime writing, believes too much attention had been given to addressing a perceived Islamic threat over the past 10 years, while home-grown extremism has largely been ignored.

Speaking to The Independent on Sunday from her home in Oslo last night, Ms Holt said: "I don't think I'm the only person who wonders how the intelligence service in Norway let this guy fly under the radar. He has written a lot of internet posts on a very right-wing website. This guy should have been picked up one way or another by the intelligence service. I would be very ashamed, if I was responsible for the intelligence service, of the fact that they have been focusing on the Islamist threat."

Ms Holt, 52, is one of Norway's most successful crime novelists and is published in more than 25 countries. She was also formerly Norway's minister for justice.

"I can understand the feeling around the world that people may be feeling that if this can happen in Norway, then it can happen anywhere. But on the other hand, terrorist attacks on Norwegian soil are much easier as we are a much easier target than any other country. There is a quite low level of security. Our police do not carry guns. We still have this kind of innocence. Until yesterday, we could still meet our Prime Minister in a shop, our members of parliament in the movie theatre.

"We pride ourselves on this low level of security. That is a very genuine quality of our society and we want to keep it that way. It is really unbelievable – even to a crime writer – that one person could pull something off like this."

Another of Norway's most famous crime writers, Jo Nesbo, who has sold more than 1.5 million novels in his native country, said it was too early to try to draw any conclusions about the state of Norwegian society, based on one person's act.