Islamist terrorism remains the primary terrorism threat to Norway


Norway’s internal security service continued to assess that Islamist terrorism remains the primary terrorism threat to Norway, although officials expressed concerns about increasing violent right wing threats. A small but outspoken group of Islamist extremists in and around Oslo remained active, although they did not conduct any attacks. In 2017, authorities convicted several Norwegians for supporting or aiding ISIS. The flow of Norwegian citizens or residents who traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of ISIS continued to decrease in 2017. Since the April arrest of the leader of an Islamist extremist group, no known individual has left Norway to join ISIS. Police Security Service (PST) officials continued to assess publicly that approximately 100 individuals have traveled as foreign terrorist fighters in total. Norway and the United States maintained good collaboration on counterterrorism.

Norway is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The government co-sponsored UN Security Council resolutions 2178 (2014) and 2396 on foreign terrorist fighters and is contributing to the Coalition’s five lines of effort, including with military personnel in a capacity-building mission for Iraqi security forces in Anbar. Norway provided approximately US $345 million in assistance in 2017 to address the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Terrorism is a criminal offense in Norway. Norway continued to prosecute foreign terrorist fighters and supporters of terrorism under its amended law from 2013. The law increased the maximum prison sentence to 30 years for serious terrorism offenses and made it illegal to conduct or plan to conduct a terrorist attack, receive terrorism-related training, or provide material support to a terrorist organization. In 2016, Norway passed legislation criminalizing traveling, as well as the intent to travel, to fight on behalf of a non-state actor.

The most significant terrorism-related conviction in 2017 was that of Ubaydullah Hussain, leader of the extremist group, the Prophet’s Ummah. Hussain was sentenced to nine years in prison for being an ISIS member, recruiting foreign terrorist fighters to the organization, and for providing financial and material support to ISIS. In another trial, one of the few Norwegians to have returned from Syria was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison for terrorist fighting and association.

The PST is responsible for domestic security, including counterterrorism activities. A joint analysis cell called the Joint Counter Terrorism Center became fully operational in 2014. This unit includes participants from the PST and the Norwegian Intelligence Service (NIS), which is the external security service. Both the PST and the NIS have devoted significant resources to identifying, tracking, and taking action against Norwegian citizens intending to travel to and from Syria and Iraq to engage in fighting. The PST and NIS maintain a list of those who have traveled to Syria and Iraq, those who have returned, and those who have expressed an interest in traveling to the two countries. Norway continued to reinforce local PST units across the country that handle counterterrorism and to improve coordination among PST, local police, municipal authorities, and centers for asylum seekers.

In May 2016, Parliament approved an agreement on the sharing of fingerprint information in criminal investigations with the European Union (EU), the parties to the Prüm Convention, as well as with the United States under the Preventing and Combating Serious Crimes data-sharing agreement. Norway continued to explore an agreement on sharing Passenger Name Record (PNR) data with the EU and is simultaneously developing a national PNR system. In November 2016, Norwegian police piloted an automated biometric identification system, which officials aim to implement nationally in 2018. Immigration to Norway is facilitated and regulated by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, which processes all applications for asylum, visas, family immigration, work and study permits, permanent residence, and travel documents. The Norwegian police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue passports.

In 2017, Norway implemented security measures on soft targets in the capital, Oslo, such as placing physical barriers in the streets of one of the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfares and directly outside the buildings. Additionally, police at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport have been armed on a trial basis.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Norway is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Norway’s financial intelligence unit (FIU), which operates within the National Authority for the Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, is a member of the Egmont Group. Norwegian law incorporates FATF standards and recommendations. Norway is a member of the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s working group to Counter Terrorist Financing. The government also continued to operate a domestic interagency group, which included the Ministries of Justice, Finance, and Foreign Affairs to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Norway continued to implement its National Action Plan against Radicalization and Violent Extremism, published in 2014, which is a whole-of-government CVE approach. Priorities include strengthening CVE research, improving national and local cooperation on counter-radicalization efforts, helping to promote reintegration of former terrorists, and preventing recruitment and radicalization to violence online.

In 2017, Norway improved coordination among authorities responsible for managing the release from prison and reintegration of those convicted of terrorism-related offenses. PST assesses that several municipalities around Oslo fjord are home to communities and individuals most vulnerable to radicalization to violence. These municipalities have increased their efforts, including passing action plans and increasing budgets for countering violent extremism and counter-radicalization activities. The national government also hosts an annual conference on radicalization and violent extremism. Participants at the 2017 conference discussed how best to use dialogue as a method of preventing radicalization.

Norway continued to support the Youth Civil Activism Network and the Strong Cities Network (SCN). Two Norwegian cities, Oslo and Kristiansand, are members of the SCN.

Regional and International Cooperation: Norway is active in multilateral fora in efforts to counter terrorism, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the EU’s Radicalization Awareness Network, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). As Chair of the OSCE Security Committee in 2017, Norway actively supported the CVE agenda, including the role of women. Although not a member, Norway has been an active participant in Global Counterterrorism Forum working group meetings, through which it coordinates projects related to counterterrorism and countering violent extremism. Norway continued to support implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. Norway provided support to phase two of The Prevention Project, which focuses on localized interventions. In 2017, Norway, together with Jordan, established the Group of Friends at the UN on preventing violent extremism and supported the publication of the UN study on foreign terrorist fighters. Norway supports the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. In December, Norway co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2396 on returning and relocating foreign terrorist ‎fighters.

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