Norway Under Attack By The Ultra-Right – OpEd
By Ria Novosti
The July 22 terrorist acts in Norway were the bloodiest attacks on civilians in Europe since the London bombings of July 2005. But experts are not linking them with major terrorist organizations and believe that the massacre was perpetrated by a mentally disturbed ultra rightwing radical.
The explosion near the government buildings in central Oslo and subsequent shooting spree at a youth camp of the ruling Norwegian Labor Party on Utoya Island 30 kilometers from the Norwegian capital killed 76 people.
Moreover, Deputy Oslo Police Chief Sveining Sponheim said explosives had also been found on the island.
The suspected perpetrator of the atrocity on the island was detained by the authorities. It turned out to be 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, an ethnic Norwegian – charges have already been brought against him. Coverage on the TV2 network links Breivik with rightwing extremist groups. The young people who had gathered at the Labor Party camp on Utoya Island were from the left on the political spectrum. The authorities also believe Breivik is, without a doubt, linked with the explosion in central Oslo. The area targeted is home to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Justice and the Police.
A prosperous nation
Before July 22, Norway was one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Notably, this year, the annual Fund for Peace rating ranked Norway second in terms of prosperity after Finland. The survey assessed the situation in 177 countries.
Today, however, all is far from fine in Norway. The country’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg described the situation as “very serious” and urged compatriots to remain calm and not give in to panic.
Addressing journalists in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the Prime Minister admitted that the authorities still had no information as to who was behind the terrorist attacks. Stoltenberg added that the causes of the explosion also remained unclear. These comments were broadcast on Euronews.
A Libyan or Afghan riposte?
Although Norwegian police are not publicly linking the attacks with international terrorist organizations, one should not forget that Norway was actively involved in NATO’s military operation in Libya. The Norwegian air force conducted approximately 10% of NATO air strikes on the country. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has repeatedly threatened to retaliate.
Norway was also involved in the international military operation in Afghanistan. Somewhere between several dozen and several hundred Norwegian military personnel have served with coalition forces over the years.
In October 2004, Al Jazeera broadcast Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, threatening to carry out reprisals against the United States and its allies: Norway was also named. This was not the only time Norway, among other countries, have been subject to threats by al Qaeda.
Indicatively, the device detonated near the government buildings. This suggests a political message. If one supposes that the terrorist attack was not linked with international terrorist organizations, then its causes must be sought in the country’s domestic policies. Alexander Konovalov, President of the Institute for Strategic Assessments, told RIA Novosti that the massacre could be an extreme reaction to the government policy which “offers asylum to too many immigrants.”
In May 2010 the newspaper Nationen commissioned Sentio to conduct an opinion poll in Norway. The survey revealed that only 60% of respondents had a positive attitude toward immigrants. One quarter of those polled said they did not like the state’s immigration policy because, in their opinion, the country lets in too many immigrants.
“Those on the left in Norway refuse to toughen the immigration policy,” Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, told RIA Novosti. When same-sex marriages were legalized in Norway a few years ago, it was those on the left who had worked to make it happen.
About a quarter of the Norwegian electorate categorically oppose leftwing policies, Makarkin noted. They vote for the populist rightwing Progress Party instead. It is this party’s supporters who, according to the 2010 poll commissioned by Nationen, most staunchly oppose immigrants. In fact, over 50% of those on the right of the political spectrum take a negative view of immigration. The man who was arrested by the police and charged with detonating the bomb and carrying out the massacre on Utoya Island also happened to hold these rightwing views.
Immigrants living in Norway are not always loyal to their new homeland. Last week, the Norwegian Prosecutor’s Office brought charges against Mullah Krekar, the leader of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam. When interviewed in the local media, Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi who now lives in Norway, threatened Norwegian politicians and the country’s political leaders with death if they tried to deport him.
Norway’s NRK television network suggested that the Oslo bombing and the attack on the political youth forum might be a reaction to the planned publication of a book containing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. A previously unknown Islamic group advocating global jihad published that report on its website. Several years ago, these cartoons were printed in Denmark and sparked Muslim protests all over the world.
Psychiatry has the answer
Analysts do not think it likely that international terrorist organizations are involved in either the bombing or the bloodbath on Utoya Island. “This is not a factional, political struggle,” Alexander Konovalov said confidently.
These developments are extremely confusing and illogical, Gennady Gudkov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on Security, told RIA Novosti. “First, Norway is a democratic country with a well-developed administrative system. Norwegians do not settle their disagreements by taking up arms,” Gudkov noted. Second, it is still unclear what happened on the island where 68 people were killed. “One person can shoot 10-12 or at most 17 people. A Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle magazine holds 33 rounds. This means the gunman had to reload four or five times, touching the red-hot rifle barrel,” Gudkov explained. He does not think it likely that just one person could have killed and wounded so many people.
As for motives, Gudkov suggests that psychiatry holds the answer. “We are talking about a mentally disturbed ultra-rightist individual on the margins of society,” Alexei Makarkin noted. “In this particular case, it appears that the suspect, who holds extreme rightwing views simply could not come to terms with the political line, and that fused with an authoritarian mindset and psychological problems,” Makarkin added.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.