Friday, July 22, 2011




According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, a large bomb blast has hit near government headquarters in the Norwegian capital Oslo, killing at least one person. The offices of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg were damaged extensively, but he was described by a government spokeswoman as safe.

2.Police said a number of people were injured in the city centre explosion. Television footage from the scene showed rubble and glass from shattered windows in the streets - smoke was rising from some buildings. The wreckage of at least one car was on one street.

3.All roads into the city centre have been closed, said national broadcaster NRK, and security officials evacuated people from the area, fearing another blast. "Police can confirm there were deaths and injuries following the explosion in the government quarter this afternoon," the police said in a statement.

4.Oistein Mjarum, head of communications for the Norwegian Red Cross, said fires were burning in the 17-storey building housing the Prime Minister’s office. An NRK journalist, Ingunn Andersen, said the headquarters of tabloid newspaper VG had also been damaged.

5.A message of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's then No. 2, who has taken over as the head of Al Qaeda after OBL’s death on May 2,2011, in a US Commando attack at Abbottabad in Pakistan, broadcast by Al Jazeera on May 21, 2003, had called for reprisal attacks against the US and some of its allies for occupying Iraq.

6. The message, inter alia, said: "O Muslims, take matters firmly against the embassies of America, England, Australia, and Norway and their interests, companies, and employees. Burn the ground under their feet, as they should not enjoy your protection, safety, or security. Expel those criminals out of your countries. Do not allow the Americans, the British, the Australians, the Norwegians, and the other crusaders who killed your brothers in Iraq to live in your countries. Wreak havoc on them."

7. While the calls for attacks on the US, the UK and Australia were not a surprise, the call for reprisals against Norway was, since Norway was not one of the allies of the US in Iraq. It was not clear why Zawahiri included Norway in the list.

8.The Norwegian police announced on July 8,2010, the arrest of three men suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda on charges of preparing terrorist attacks. One of them was a Norwegian citizen of Uighur origin. The other two were permanent residents in Norway of Uzbek and Iraqi-Kurdish origin. Two of them (the Uzbek and the Uighur) were reported to have been arrested in Norway and the third (Iraqi-Kurd with a permanent residence permit of Norway) in Germany. The Norwegian police had been keeping them under surveillance for investigation for about a year. The arrests appeared to have been made even though the investigation had not yet been completed because of the leakage of the news about the investigation against them to the media. They apparently decided to arrest them before the media came out with the news.

9. Media reports indicated that the arrested persons were suspected of involvement in plots for terrorist strikes in Norway and of having links with some terrorist suspects under investigation in the US and the UK. It was not clear whether the arrested belonged to Al Qaeda or its ally the Islamic Jihad Union , which has many Uzbek and Uighur members.

10.It is not clear whether the targeting of Norway has anything to do with its role in Afghanistan as a member of the NATO forces fighting against the Taliban.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: . Twitter : @SORBONNE75)