Thursday, July 8, 2010

Norway arrests 3 al Qaeda-linked suspects over plot

Janne Kristiansen, Director of The Norwegian Police Security Service, speaks at press conference in Oslo, Thursday July 8, 2010, after three suspected al-Qaida members were arrested in what Norwegian and U.S. officials said was a terrorist plot linked to similar plans in New York and England.

(Reuters) - Three men were arrested on Thursday suspected of planning attacks, and of having links to al Qaeda and to people under investigation in the United States and Britain, Norwegian police said.

Two of the men were arrested in the Oslo region while a third one was arrested in Germany.

"We believe this group has had links to people abroad who can be linked to al Qaeda, and to people who are involved in investigations in other countries, among others the United States and Britain," the Police Security Service (PST) chief Janne Kristiansen said.

Kristiansen did not give details of the plot nor say which country might have been the target of a planned attack. Norway, which has troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission, has never had an al Qaeda-led attack on its soil.

She declined to comment on whether there was a link to arrests in the United States and Britain.

On Wednesday, the United States charged five men with plotting to bomb New York City's subway system and attack an unidentified target in Britain under orders from al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

And British police on Wednesday arrested a 24-year-old terrorism suspect given leave to stay in Britain after a request from the U.S. government for his extradition, police said.

U.S. authorities want Abid Naseer, who in May won a court battle against deportation to Pakistan, to stand trial on charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to use a destructive device.

Norwegian police said Thursday's arrests were brought forward by fears details of the investigation would appear in public.

"We were afraid evidence would be destroyed, because we knew that an international media organization was about to publish details of the case. That made it urgent to make the arrests," Kristiansen told Reuters.

"The PST has today ... apprehended three individuals suspected of having prepared terrorist acts," it said in a statement.

One of the men was a 39-year-old Norwegian citizen of Uighur origin, another was a 37-year-old Iraqi citizen, and the third was a 31-year-old Uzbek citizen. The Iraqi and the Uzbek both had permanent residency in Norway.

Kristiansen said Norwegian police had collaborated with several police services abroad, but did not specify which.

The terrorism threat to Norway remained minor after the arrests, she said.

"The threat of terrorism in Norway is (generally) low and it is still low," she told the news conference.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg also said Norway had been in no immediate danger, but said Oslo would "maintain and consolidate" security.

"Terrorism creates fear and insecurity, and must be combated," he told a news conference.

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