According to the PST, Islamist extremism continued to represent the most significant terrorist threat in 2018, particularly Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks by one or more individuals. Still, Norway lowered its overall terrorist threat level from “probable” to “possible” in evaluating the likelihood of an attack. Other European countries, including France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, face a greater threat from groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. ISIS’s loss of territory in Syria and Iraq has also led to reduced radicalization efforts and support for radical Islamism in Norway. The presence of extreme Islamist milieus declined, especially compared to the period between 2012 and 2015. There have been fewer public demonstrations and propaganda activities since several key ISIS figures are either imprisoned or were killed in Syria and Iraq. Nonetheless, existing propaganda is still accessible and used to radicalize and plan attacks by small groups and lone individuals. The PST believes that radicalization efforts continue to occur primarily on the Internet, at asylum centers, in prisons, and at religious congregations that can provide a platform for foreign radical imams. (Sources: Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste)
The PST has identified the Oslofjord area of Oslo as the primary area for extremist radicalization and recruitment. The most notable Islamist group operating in Norway is the Ummah of the Prophet (Profetens Ummah), which is based in the east of the country close to Oslo. In 2010, Profetens Ummah emerged as an informal group demonstrating against the daily newspaper Dagbladet, which published a caricature depicting Prophet Mohammed as a pig. In September 2012, approximately 150 sympathizers of Profetens Ummah demonstrated in front of the U.S. embassy in Oslo in response to the controversial short-film The Innocence of Muslims. The group drew increasing attention through its conducting of street dawa to proselytize and provocative demands for so-called sharia zones. In December 2012, Profetens Ummah confirmed links with the now-banned British Islamist extremist group Islam4UK, led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary.
Speaking to Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, Profetens Ummah spokesman Ubaydullah Hussain, a Norwegian of Pakistani descent, declared “absolute” support for the ISIS and his belief that sharia should be implemented in Norway. Hussain has been labeled the “door-opener and ISIL’s voice in Norway” by Norwegian state prosecutor Frederik G. Ranke. In February 2014, he was convicted of hate speech against Jews and given a 120-day prison sentence. In July 2014, Hussain was charged with incitement to violence but was later acquitted. In December 2015, he was arrested and charged for recruiting terrorists and helping foreign fighters by providing both equipment and advice. In what became Norway’s first trial over the recruitment of potential ISIS fighters, Hussain was sentenced to 9 years in prison in April 2017. The judgement was confirmed at the Borgarting Court of Appeal in January 2018. (Sources: Dagbladet, Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, NRK, Hate Speech International, The Local, News in English, Store Norske Leksikon)
Another prominent Norwegian-based Islamist group is Rawti Shax, a Sunni Muslim terrorist network that also maintains cells in other European countries including Germany, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom, as well as Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It seeks the establishment of a caliphate in the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI) and the implementation of sharia. Its leader is the “celebrity jihadist” Mullah Krekar, a U.S.- and U.N.-sanctioned terrorist who found sanctuary in Norway as a Kurdish refugee and subsequently threatened the country’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg. In 2012, Krekar was sentenced to five years imprisonment for making repeated death threats against Norwegian politicians and the Kurdish people, and was released early in January 2015. In November 2015, 13 members of Krekar’s organization—as well as Krekar himself—were arrested in Norway, Italy, and Britain. The suspects are accused of recruiting for ISIS, and their sentences still pending. (Sources: NBC News, CBS News, Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, Reuters)
While “Norway seems an unlikely place for Islamist extremism… [and] does not have radical mosques,” approximately 100 fighters from Norway have traveled to Syria and Iraq, some of which have even assumed leadership positions with ISIS. According to the Norwegian Intelligence Service (Etterretningstjenesten or E-tjenesten or NIS) that figure was 150 as of the start of 2015. The Soufan Group issued an official figure of 81 by October 2015. In fall 2017, the PST registered its last attempt to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. As of February 2019, approximately 30 Norwegian foreign fighters remain in the conflict area, but are unlikely to return to Norway. These numbers are fewer than other Nordic countries but not insignificant for a country of only 5 million that is known for its political tranquility. According to a September 2016 PST report, one in every five radicalized Muslim is a convert to Islam. Approximately 90 percent are not ethnically Norwegian, and 61 percent immigrated to Norway as children or youths. While the vast majority of radicalized Norwegians are young men, the Internet has apparently also facilitated the phenomenon of “a larger number of women…becoming more active members of the extreme Islamist Oslofjord milieu.” The report also noted that almost three-fourths of radicalized individuals started their radicalization following the start of the Syria conflict, and warned of a “large potential for radicalisation also in the future….” (Sources: New York Review of Books, Washington Post, Soufan Group, U.S. Department of State, Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, Russia Today, Norwegian Government)
Norwegians fighting for the ISIS were radicalized in the Profetens Ummah.
On January 20, 2020, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide announced that Norway would repatriate both a Norwegian woman linked to ISIS and her two children, one of which is gravely ill. Soreide claims the repatriation is based on humanitarian reasons to treat the sick child. The administration previously refused repatriating the mother—who is described as Pakistani but had married a Norwegian extremist killed in fighting—but relented for the best interest of the child. (Source: Arab News)
Right-wing extremism in Norway is characterized by unorganized and loosely connected networks, with the exception of the Nordic Resistance Movement (Den nordiske motstandsbevegelsen, or NRM). The NRM is a transnational, neo-Nazi organization with official chapters operating in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Formed in 1997, the NRM seeks to merge all Nordic countries into a single, nationalist-socialist state, either by elections or through revolution. The group is openly racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and pro-Hitler—and has carried out violence targeting gay people, ideological opponents, and Muslim refugees. (Sources: Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, Hate Speech International, NRM, National Vanguard, Yle, Valmyndigheten, The Times, Expo Idag, Washington Post)
Far-right extremist groups have recently grown in numbers and increased their visibility offline and online by engaging in hate speech and issuing threats. However, the NRM and other far-right groups in Norway are unlikely to carry out major violent or terrorist attacks in the near future, according to the PST. Rather, these groups focus on organizational development and recruitment of new members. Still, some far-right extremists’ broad interpretation of self-defense could increase the propensity for violence in tense situations like public demonstrations. Moreover, the affinity of firearms and weapons by far-right extremists is also of concern. Norwegian far-right groups also direct their hatred and frustration towards government authorities for “allowing and facilitating the destruction of the Norwegian way of life and culture by various minority groups,” including non-Western immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and LGBTQ people. (Sources: Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste)
In the past decade, far-right extremists have taken to carrying out lone-wolf attacks, as seen by Philip Manshaus in 2019 and Anders Behring Breivik in 2011. Both fervently espoused anti-immigrant and far-right beliefs and often lacked remorse for their actions at their respective trials as they both claimed their only regret was to have killed more people. (Sources: Independent, New York Times)
Left-wing extremism is of marginal concern in Norway, despite some activity since 2017, including exposing and occasionally harassing those they define as neo-Nazis. Left-wing extremists usually resort to non-violent means, like disturbance of public order and counter-demonstrations. However, some see violence as an efficient method to reinforce their political convictions. The PST is also concerned about the increasing links between leftist extremist groups throughout Europe, some of which are highly violent European groups and may inspire Norwegians to pursue violent actions against opinion opponents. (Sources: Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste)