Attack in Norway prods Europol

Posted: July 24, 2011

LONDON - After Norway's terrorist attack, the European police agency Europol is setting up a task force of more than 50 experts to help investigate non-Islamist threats in Scandinavian countries, its spokesman said Saturday.

Soeren Pedersen said the group, based in the Hague, hoped to help Norway in the coming weeks and to aid Denmark, Finland, and Sweden in assessing non-Islamist threats. Norway has not requested forensic experts but Europol stands ready to assist, Pedersen said.

"There is no doubt that the threat from Islamist terrorism is still valid," he said, adding that the task force could be expanded to include other European nations. "But there have actually been warnings that [right-wing groups] are getting more professional, more aggressive in the way they attract others to their cause."

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, European countries have viewed Islamic terrorism as their primary threat. But the fact that the suspect in Friday's attacks turned out to be a Norwegian with right-wing views is raising questions about whether homegrown, non-Islamic terror threats have been misjudged.

In leaked diplomatic cables dating to 2008, U.S. diplomats warned that Norway seemed complacent about terrorist threats and criticized gaps in intelligence. The cables released by WikiLeaks also gave a snapshot of simmering anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic tensions in Norway.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has grown in Norway amid rising tensions over its policy of taking in refugees.

In the 1990s, it welcomed immigrants from the Balkans. Years later, it took in large numbers of Iraqi refugees. The Norwegian government has said it expects about 15,000 new arrivals this year, many from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Somalia.

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