Europol will establish a task force to help investigate non-Islamist threats in the Scandinavian countries, media reports quoted the European law enforcement agency as saying on Monday (July 25th) in the wake of last week’s twin terrorist attacks in Norway.
The group will initially comprise more than 50 senior experts from Britain and a number of other European countries, but could be expanded in the future, if needed, officials from The Hague-based agency said.
Europol head Rob Wainwright suggested the idea was prompted by Friday’s bomb explosion at the government headquarters in Oslo and the killing spree at a Labour Party summer youth camp on Utoeya Island, about 50km away, just two hours later.
“As soon as it happened we opened our operational centre to connect the investigation with an international platform of counter terrorism analysts,” Brussels-based Euobserver quoted him as saying.
“It has taken a lot of people by surprise. We’ve been monitoring the right wing extremists in Europe for many years,” Wainwright added.
On Sunday, the death toll from the shocking attacks rose to 93. At least 96 others were wounded in the worst violence Norway has seen since World War II.
Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, who is said to have links with far-right extremist groups, was arrested within hours of Friday’s incidents. He admitted carrying out both attacks, but has denied criminal responsibility for them.
In a 1,500-page “manifesto,” titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” which was posted on the internet along with other writings, Breivik said that it was NATO’s air strikes on Serbia in 1999 that “tipped the scales” for him, according to the AP.
He criticised the Norwegian government for joining the campaign, claiming that it wrongly targeted “our Serbian brothers [who] wanted to drive Islam out by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania”.
Insisting that the “Islamisation of Europe” cannot be stopped by peaceful means, Breivik calls for a “crusade” against “cultural Marxists” and Muslims.
Serbian President Boris Tadic, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Balkan leaders, joined European and international officials in condemning the massacre in Norway.
“On behalf of the Serbian people, please accept our deepest condolences over the tragedy caused by the senseless bombings,” Tadic wrote in a letter of condolence to Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday.
The Turkish foreign ministry released a statement the same day, emphasising Ankara’s support for the Nordic country.
“I would like to stress that we stand together in solidarity with our friends, the people of Norway and the Norwegian government during these hardest of times,” Erdogan said in a separate personal message to his Norwegian counterpart, also condemning such terrorist attacks, in which innocent people are killed.
Abdulkadir Emin Onen, deputy-chairman of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party for foreign affairs and chairman of the Turkish Group at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, told SETimes that Turks were “shocked by the tragic events” in Norway.
“Turkish people crossed their fingers from the very beginning, hoping there were no Islam organisations behind the Norway attacks,” Aytekin Geleri, security analyst at the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking, told SETimes.
While acknowledging the potential menace posed by far-right extremist groups in Europe, Wainwright noted also that the threat of Islamist terrorism remains in the Old Continent.
“The threat of jihadist terrorism is still out there,” he said. “It is still a real and substantial threat, but of course at the same time we have to monitor other possible terrorist activities.”
SETimes correspondent Alakbar Raufoglu contributed to this report.