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Norway And The Fear Of Al Qaeda

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Norway And The Fear Of Al Qaeda

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It seemed obvious: An attack on a Western target in the wake of the constant pressure that the US and NATO forces have been applying to Al Qaeda. The group and its various offshoots have had a rough couple of months. They suffered the killing of bin Laden; the killing of Ilyas Kashmiri, Al Qaeda’s military boss in Central Asia; the attempts on the life of the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar; and the constant use of predator drones for targeted attacks on leaders wherever Al Qaeda is training and recruiting, notably Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Then today, as if in response, there were two consecutive attacks in Norway, an explosion that caused major damage to government buildings and shootings at a youth camp run by the Labor Party where top government officials were apparently scheduled to speak.

Al Qaeda did not claim credit for the chaos — as of late Friday afternoon, a group calling itself “Helpers of the Global Jihad” had made, then revoked, a statement claiming responsibility — but the twin attacks seemed to bear the group’s signature. The bombing of public buildings resembles similar assaults of embassies and hotels around the world, while the shooting rampage looked like it was straight out of the playbook of Anwar al Awlaki, an American-born cleric who has become the new face of Al Qaeda in Yemen, and has urged his followers to use guns against Western targets.

Given all the evidence — and the chatter on Islamist message boards — one would expect that the source of today’s attacks were clear. But as of 5:30 Friday evening, the only suspect arrested was a Norwegian citizen, and his ties with Islamist militants, if they existed at all, were unclear. More than one western expert had warned that it was a message from Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s longtime number two and the new head of Al Qaeda.

And it wasn’t just Westerners who blamed the most available bogeyman.

Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s longtime lieutenant and now the titular head of al Qaeda, has been calling for an attack against Norwegians since 2003. The Norwegian army reportedly continues to provide special forces in and around Kabul and in 2006 the Norwegian press published Danish cartoons that ridiculed Islam and the prophet Mohammed, eliciting angry protests from Muslims around the globe. (Unlike the Danish government, however, the Norwegian government issued an apology.) And last week, Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi refugee in Norway who founded the Islamist group Ansar al Islam (predecessor of Al Qaeda in Iraq), was indicted in Oslo for making threats against Norwegian politicians.

As Abu Suleiman al-Nasser, a military leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq who has repeatedly threatened attacks against Scandinavian countries, bluntly explained on a jihadist message board earlier today: “Norway was targeted in order to become a lesson and example for the rest of the countries of Europe.” Al-Nasser demanded that European countries withdraw from Afghanistan. “Answer the demands of the Mujahideen,” he said, “as what you see is only the beginning and what’s coming is more.’”

Karen Greenberg is the director of NYU’s Center on Law and Security

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5 Comments

  1. DouglasWilson July 23, 2011

    The Norwegian assassin may yet turn out to have jihadist ties, but the minute I heard that the island shooter had been seen at the Oslo explosion site, the odds in my mind shifted greatly to an Oklahoma City scenario. That was about two hours after the initial reports. Yet what is reported here is some Al Qaeda internet gab and a couple of statements by Al Qaeda leaders producing the widespread assumption that Al Qaeda was behind it.

    It just amazes me that we have allowed fear to dominate the mentality and thus govern the fate of America. Twenty guys with boxcutters exploit holes in our security, take down the Towers, and come close to collapsing our economy overnight. Not one but two trillion-dollar wars are cranked up. We now have a hundred thousand troops and massive logistical support halfway around the world against a few hundred Al Qaeda operatives and a small army of Afghan hillbillies who will be there long after we have forgotten how to spell Afghanistan.

    And because of all this, and a bunch of American Congressmen who philosophically resemble the Taliban and are determined to return to the 19th century, our economy is on the verge of an even worse collapse than ten years ago.

    The only bright spot is the jobs and profits of the military-industrial complex, which was desperate to find a new raison d’etre after the Cold War and found it in Al Qaeda. And now they are partners with Al Qaeda in marketing fear, which magnifies the threat, justifies the American mission, and avoid American embarrassment at wasting vast resources and failing to win.

    But winning is not really the object, is it? Without Al Qaeda, the Complex is again without a mission.

    Reply
  2. DouglasWilson July 23, 2011

    The Norwegian assassin may yet turn out to have jihadist ties, but the minute I heard that the island shooter had been seen at the Oslo explosion site, the odds in my mind shifted greatly to an Oklahoma City scenario. That was about two hours after the initial reports. Yet what is reported here is some Al Qaeda internet gab and a couple of statements by Al Qaeda leaders producing the widespread assumption that Al Qaeda was behind it.

    It just amazes me that we have allowed fear to dominate the mentality and thus govern the fate of America. Twenty guys with boxcutters exploit holes in our security, take down the Towers, and come close to collapsing our economy overnight. Not one but two trillion-dollar wars are cranked up. We now have a hundred thousand troops and massive logistical support halfway around the world against a few hundred Al Qaeda operatives and a small army of Afghan hillbillies who will be there long after we have forgotten how to spell Afghanistan.

    And because of all this, and a bunch of American Congressmen who philosophically resemble the Taliban and are determined to return to the 19th century, our economy is on the verge of an even worse collapse than ten years ago.

    The only bright spot is the jobs and profits of the military-industrial complex, which was desperate to find a new raison d’etre after the Cold War and found it in Al Qaeda. And now they are partners with Al Qaeda in marketing fear, which magnifies the threat, justifies the American mission, and avoid American embarrassment at wasting vast resources and failing to win.

    But winning is not really the object, is it? Without Al Qaeda, the Complex is again without a mission.

    Reply
  3. fsmith July 23, 2011

    The notion that 19 Arabs took over four airliners simply by wielding “boxcutters” seems to me a bit far-fetched.

    At the time of the 9/11 hijackings I never had any problem carrying a Swiss Army knife on planes. It was my understanding that the hijackers carried Leatherman locking-blade knives, a formidable weapon, and that the “boxcutters” claim was merely another of many diversions intended to shunt responsibility away from the Bush administration’s abject failure to insure the security of the public.

    The facts should be easy enough to determine. The crash in Pennsylvania did not involve an all-consuming fire and forensic evidence was collected thoroughly. Was it “boxcutters” or fixed-blades knives found in the wreckage?

    Reply
  4. mll July 23, 2011

    I agree with Mr. Wilson’s viewpoints on this issue. Twenty years from now, how will we explain our ‘war’ on no particular country or people. Somewhat the way we described our previous ‘war’ on communism. Remember that one. We have come up with an even scarier bogey-man to justify this war. Yesterday, almost every internet post was blaming Al Qaeda, Muslims, or Arabs for the attack in Norway. Have we forgot that there are monsters in every country capable on such hideous acts. We need to get ours boys out of harm’s way, and take care of America. How short our memories are of Vietnam, and our justified intervention in a country that really did not need us or wants us there. There has got to be a better way to get this country back on its feet, without relying on the military-industrial complex.

    Reply
  5. dadsspook57 July 24, 2011

    A right-wing Norwegian extremist was responsible for more than 90 killings on that island and it looks like they were responsible for the bombing also.

    Reply

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