On Wednesday May 21st, Al-Jazeera broadcast an audio tape allegedly from Ayman al-Zawahri, a member of al-Qaida, urging terrorist attacks on several countries including Norway. The United States has since temporarily closed its embassy in Oslo due to security concerns, and Norwegian interests and companies all over the world are now trying to come to terms with a threat unprecedented in their history. An Associated Press piece provides some more background.
Norway had a small part in the war in Afganistan, sending some mountaineering troops in to assist coalition forces. Some think the threat was actually intended for Denmark, which had a large rôle in the war in Iraq -- security has been stepped up in København considerably as a precaution.
Amidst all these theories, there is one that has not gotten much play in the US press. Abdel Bari-Atwan, editor of the London Arabic-language newspaper القدس العربي (al-Quds al-Arabi), says that Norway's treatment of a radical Kurd may be the reason the country was singled out as a terror target in the audio tape.
The Norwegian police arrested a man named Mullah Krekar in March on suspicion of financing terrorism. The arrest came shortly after the Norwegian foreign ministry declared that Krekar had to leave the country within three weeks, then quickly reversed itself when it discovered such an order was illegal under the terms of the asylum law. His case is now being handled by Økokrim, the Economic Crimes unit. You can read the complaint against him on the website of the Høyesterett (Supreme Court,) if you understand Norwegian. Interestingly, according to paragraph 147a of Norwegian law, Norway's interests do not necessarily have to be threatened by the alleged terrorism, so the arrest may have to do with planning for an attack elsewhere in Europe or the world.
Krekar, 47, founded the Ansar al-Islam movement in Iranian Kurdistan and has lived with his family in political asylum in Oslo since 1991. He has shadowy links with both the Iranian and (former) Iraqi government. Colin Powell is on the record as saying that Ansar al-Islam shelters members of al Qaeda, a charge Krekar denies. In February, the State Department designated the group as being linked to terrorism.
"In the eyes of extremist Muslims, it is a serious matter that the extremely religious Krekar risks punishment and exile from Norway. In addition, Norway was an extremely zealous ally in the war against Afganistan," says Bari-Atwan from London.