Three years ago, on July 22nd, 2011, Norway experienced the worst loss of human life since World War II, with the domestic terror attack carried out by Anders Behring Breivik in the government district of Oslo and at Utøya, an island where the Labour Party's summer camp for youths was taking place. 77 people lost their lives, hundreds were injured, and an entire nation was shocked to the core.
Today, evil rears its ugly head again.
At 10 AM today, Norwegian Justice Minister Anders Anundsen and Benedicte Bjørnland, chief of the Norwegian Security Police (PST), announced at a joint press conference that persons with connections to islamist extremists in Syria intend to carry out an attack on Norway sometime in the next few days.
According to Bjørnland the threat is credible, but unspecific. Anundsen warned the public to be vigilant.
Atle Mesøy, a researcher specializing in security studies at the Norwegian Environmental and Bio-Science University, says in an interview with NRK (Norway's state broadcaster) that it's unlikely that any of the bigger terrorist organizations, like ISIS or Al-Qaeda, are involved.
"It's more likely that a smaller group with connections to Norway, that has fought with bigger terrorist organizations in Syria, is behind the threat," Mesøy said.
According to PST, somewhere between 40 and 50 people with connections to Norway, are fighting, or have fought, in Syria.
For anyone unfamiliar with Norway and its culture, it is generally considered one of the most liberally progressive and peaceful societies on Earth. When we were struck by domestic terrorism in 2011, no one was prepared. No one. Nothing like it had happened since World War II, and the population, generally speaking, seemed to be under the illusion that we were immune to such atrocities.
The police faced massive criticism in the aftermath for being unprepared to deal with the situation. This image became emblematic of this unpreparedness: It shows nine armed police officers heading to Utøya in a small inflatable boat. It is clearly overloaded. Apparently the engine stalled halfway to the island and the police had to switch boats before they were able to make it to the island and arrest Breivik.
When he willingly laid down his weapons and surrendered he had shot and killed 69 people, most of them teenagers participating in the Labour Party's Youth Summer Camp. Before his shooting spree he had set of a car bomb in the government district in Oslo. It killed eight people, wounded dozens, and caused millions in damages. It takes a special kind of sociopath to use a car bomb merely as a diversion.
There's an interesting contrast between the 2011 attacks and today's threat, and that is the opposing ideologies motivating the attacks (or potential attack in today's case.)
Breivik claimed in his 1800-page manifesto, which he distributed online the day of his attack, that his intention was to combat the growing multiculturalism in Norway, that "Islam and cultural marxism is the enemy," and that the deportation of all Muslims from Europe was a necessity to save our "traditional values."
Today, the threats supposedly come from reactionary Islamists with connections to Syria. Lately we have seen the implosion of Syria and Iraq, where the terrorist organization ISIS/ISIL claims to have re-established the Caliphate in accordance with an extremely strict interpretation of the Muslim faith. ISIS, it is worth mentioning, has shown itself willing and capable of such boundless brutality that Al-Qaeda kicked them out.
(I am NOT claiming there is a direct connection between the situation in Syria/Iraq and today's threat against Norway, because I have no idea if that is the case. I am merely noting what I find to be an interesting contrast between the first real terror attack against Norway, and what is now presenting itself.)
To me, this goes to show that extremism, whichever direction it may take, can manifest itself in deadly ideas and ideologies.
Three years later, almost to the day, we hear of threats against our country. We did not have that luxury last time, so I hope the authorities adequately ramp up security operations to deal with it in such a manner that no one has to die. We lost enough people three years ago. Now we have no excuse to not be prepared.