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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Threat unsettles Norway's press
Oslo harbour
Oslo, Norway - an unlikely Al-Qaeda target

Norwegian newspapers are full of alarm and speculation following Wednesday's threat to the country attributed to senior Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

"Total confusion reigned last night," the tabloid Dagbladet says in an article headlined "Norwegian terror targets".

It suggests that the country's intelligence service only learned of the threat from TV.

"The Norwegian secret services, or PST, got the news of Al-Qaeda's new targets through the media - not from the CIA, Mossad or Britain's MI6, which are their normal sources," the paper says.

It said the authorities were fumbling around in the dark - Justice Minister Odd Einar Doerum refused to speculate over the possible reasons, but added that the situation was deemed "serious".

Aftenposten agrees. "What lies behind acts of terrorism has motivations that go beyond our usual perspective," it says in a commentary.

"We are incapable of understanding what they are doing and why they are doing it, but that does by no means mean that we can underestimate the threat," it concludes.

Wrong country?

Some commentators argue that Norway might have been singled out because of a simple mix-up - the terror network might have wanted to punish Denmark for sending troops to fight along US forces in Iraq, said Oslo Peace Research Institute director Stein Toennerson.

Mullah Krekar
Mullah Krekar has refused to comment

"But I still fear that Norway has been mentioned because Al-Qaeda has already eyed up a Norwegian target," he told Aftenposten.

Several broadsheets try to analyse the possible reasons why Norway might have become unpopular among Islamist extremists.

The daily Dagsavisen points the finger at Norway's military role in the Afghan conflict. "Norway has actively engaged in the war against the Taleban regime. Norwegian bombers have taken part in it, and Norwegian special forces are still operative in that country," it argues.

'Elongated arm'

Others think that Norway's mediation in the Middle East peace process might be the cause.

"In radical circles, Norway is perceived as an elongated arm for the USA and Israel," Mideast expert Hilde Henriksen told Dagsavisen. "Besides, with the Oslo agreement, Norway has raised its head above the parapet and is no longer an anonymous country in that region," she added.

Many eyes turn to Mullah Krekar, a Norwegian-based Kurdish leader suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda whom the government is planning to expel. But he refused to comment on the threat. "He does not wish to tell the media anything about this issue," his brother told Aftenposten.

Stavanger Aftenbladet chooses a more straightforward approach to the issue by setting up a simple survey on its online web site with the question: "Are you afraid of a terror attack on Norway?".

At the time of writing, 36% had replied "Yes" and 64% "No".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Norway charges suspected militant
21 Mar 03  |  Middle East
Norway to expel Mullah Krekar
19 Feb 03  |  Europe
Mullah denies Iraq al-Qaeda link
31 Jan 03  |  Middle East
Spotlight on detained Kurd leader
14 Sep 02  |  Middle East


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