Scandinavian Countries Have a Recent History of Attacks By Terrorists
The Oslo attacks come as European counterterrorism officials say terror groups are shifting their targets to countries where attacks have been less common, and perhaps more unexpected.
A confidential June report by the European police agency Europol described the shift. Favored targets include Scandinavian countries, one senior intelligence official said, noting a string of recent incidents.
In December, a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up among Christmas shoppers near a busy street in the center of Stockholm.
In September, an Iraqi Kurd, one of three men arrested in July in the Oslo area and in the German city of Duisburg, confessed to planning a terrorist strike that may have targeted Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper known for publishing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The suspect was one of three men arrested when the Norwegian Security Service acted against a suspected terrorist cell operating in Norway.
Norwegian officials are awake to the threat, a senior German intelligence official said. Norway increased security against attacks in 2009 when Islamist websites posted videos calling for Islamic holy war against European states that send troops to Afghanistan, such as Norway.
Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College said Friday's events should be the context of September's arrests and the failed attack in Stockholm.
"What happened in Norway is what should have happened in Sweden," he said. Ranstorp suggest those who carried out today's attack could be part of wider network.
"Attacks of this scale are rarely carried out by individuals with a grudge, acting alone," he said.
Although Islamist groups came under immediate suspicion and one initially claimed responsibility, authorities said the motive for the attacks wasn't known and a person under arrest was a Norwegian citizien; it wasn't known if he had ties to any Islamist groups.
Norwegian counterterrorism officials have closely monitored Islamist extremists for at least a decade, court records show. A Spanish investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. and March 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid revealed close links among jihad fighters in Spain, Iraq and Afghanistan, and a cleric in Norway known as Mullah Krekar, court records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show. Last week a Norwegian prosecutor charged Mr. Krekar with terrorism, alleging he threatened Norwegian officials.
Raphael Perl, head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the Oslo attack apparently fits into a recent trend of terrorism by people or groups whose primary links are to local causes. "No country is immune," Mr. Perl said.