Three men accused of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism have been arrested by Norwegian police. Two were apprehended in Norway; the third fled Norway to Germany, where he was arrested with the assistance of local police. The men are variously described as "linked" to terrorism, as terrorists themselves, and in some cases as members of al-Qaeda. The location of the arrests is unusual, to say the least. As New American Foundation analyst Katherine Tiedemann put it, "Al Qaeda in... Norway? Didn't see that one coming." Information is still coming in and the story could change quickly, but here's what we know right now.
- What They May Have Been Planning The New York Times' Alan Cowell reports, "A police official said the arrests took place on Thursday, with the men suspected of planning to use bombs made of peroxide that were both powerful and easily transported. ... News reports said the arrests came after counterterrorism agents maintained surveillance of the suspects for a year. The arrests were linked to a similar conspiracy in Manchester, England, where a man was arrested on Wednesday on an extradition warrant issued by the United States."
- What They're Charged With Al Jazeera reports, "Jan Glent, the national prosecutor, said the three had been 'charged with having entered into a partnership to commit a terrorist act. ... We also think they have links to al-Qaeda and to similar attempts [at attacks] in New York and Manchester,' he said."
- Is This Connected to Other Terror Plots? Not exactly. The Associated Press' Ian MacDougall, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman explain, "U.S. officials in Washington believe the Norway plan was organized by Salah al-Somali, al-Qaida's former chief of external operations who is in charge of plotting attacks worldwide. Al-Qaida usually keeps its plots compartmentalized, and officials do not believe the suspects in Norway knew about the other plots. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case. ... Officials said it was not clear the latest men arrested had selected a target for their attack."
- Who They Were The New York Times' Alan Cowell writes, "One of the men arrested was a 39-year-old Norwegian citizen of Chinese origin who belonged to the Muslim Uighur group, she said. Another was a 37-year-old Iraqi citizen who came to Norway in 1999 and has permanent residency. The third man was a 31-year-old Uzbek citizen who also has permanent residency in Norway."
- Why Target Norway? Foreign Policy's David Kenner speculates, "Norway is thought to have been a target because it has contributed 500 soldiers to the internatioanl war effort in Afghanistan, and because of the furor sparked by a Danish newspaper's decision in 2006 to publish 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed." Norway is one of 42 nations to contribute troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
- Sounds Like an Old Joke Central Asia expert Joshua Foust quips, "Three guys, an Uzbek, an Iraqi, and a Uighur, walk into a bar in Oslo... and are arrested for thought crimes."