Three European intelligence services have confirmed that Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has trained and dispatched a Norwegian recruit to carry out an attack in the West. The target is not known for sure, but recent information indicates it is an American airliner.
“We believe he is operational, and he is probably about to get his target. And that target is probably in the West,” said one unnamed official. He has been described as an “ideal recruit” because he likely has a European Union visa, making travel across the continent easy, and he has a “completely clean” criminal record. “Not even a parking ticket,” explained one official.
The man is in his 30’s and has gone by the Muslim name Abu Aburrahman since converting to Islam in 2008. After converting, he went to Yemen and lived in Azzan until last month. He then moved to Dammaj but has now left the Gulf country.
It is speculated that the planned attack is to happen sometime around the Olympics in London, but there is no specific intelligence pointing to that. In February, the Telegraph reported that Iran and Al-Qaeda had teamed up for a “spectacular” attack in the West, probably in Europe. Then, like now, it was suggested that the operation could be timed around the Olympics.
On July 1, the European embargo on imports of Iranian oil went into effect. If Iran is involved in this latest plot, it may be seeking retaliation for the implementation of the toughest sanctions yet. An attack could also cause oil prices to spike, allowing Iran to make more money per barrel of oil sold.
The fact that a Norwegian is at the center of the plot speaks to a broader threat facing the West: Radicals among the quickly-growing Muslim populations of Europe, including Scandinavia. In March 2011, a Norwegian was killed in Somalia who had gone there to fight alongside al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. He previously served in the Norwegian military. At least four more Norwegians are thought to be in Somalia.
Norway’s bloodiest terrorist attack came at the hands of Anders Breivik last summer, an anti-Muslim extremist that carried out a massacre of 77 Norwegian civilians, including many children. The rise in right-wing extremism in Europe is indeed a problem, but U.S. government officials have long complained privately in the past that Norway has not awaken to the Islamist threat.
Secret documents published by Wikileaks from 2007 to 2009 show that U.S. officials reported that the Norwegian government did not consider terrorist groups to be a “direct threat.” The American ambassador to Norway said that the government wouldn’t even allocate resources to conduct surveillance on a suspected Al-Qaeda terror cell. The British government offered to send a team to help the Norwegians, and they still weren’t interested.
Norway sentenced its first terrorist, Mikael Davud, only this January. One of its citizens, a Chinese-Muslim, was given seven years in prison for planning to set off a bomb at the offices of the Danish newspaper that published cartoons mocking Islam’s founder, Mohammed. He learned how to build the bomb in Iran and traveled to Pakistan to train with Al-Qaeda.
Also in January, a group of 40 Muslims protested in front of the parliament building and said that if Norway didn’t bring home its small number of troops from Afghanistan, retaliation would happen on its own soil. “If security is dear to you, dear Norwegians, you should collectively demand that the Norwegian government withdraw Norwegian forces. And I stress: this is not a threat; it is a warning for your own good,” the leader said to cheers.
In January of this year, the Norwegian authorities arrested a citizen originally from Central America that uploaded a video asking Allah to destroy the government and the royal family. “Oh Allah, destroy them, and let it be painful,” the accompanying song says. He posted it to a Facebook group with 1,600 members that was planning a protest against the war in Afghanistan.
That’s three Islamist terrorism-related incidents in just one month. Hopefully, U.S. officials working with the Norwegian government aren’t having the same complaints now.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.