COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Russia is the main security threat for all of Europe and will remain so for a long time, Norway’s intelligence officials said Monday, warning that recent burnings of Islam’s holy book in Scandinavia could possibly lead to terror attacks in the country.
“Russia today poses the biggest threat to Norwegian and European security, and the confrontation with the West will be long-lasting,” said Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram.
Arild Gram made the remark after the government received the annual threat assessments from Norway’s three security services: the domestic and the foreign intelligence agencies and the Norwegian National Security Authority, or NSM.
“The burning of the Quran could be seen as offensive or provocative and we expect that such events will also occur in 2023 in Norway,” said Beate Gangås, head of the domestic security service, known by its acronym PST. “When such events take place in Norway, the likelihood of radicalization and ultimately terrorist planning against Norway increases.”
Despite the warning, Norway’s terror domestic threat level was left unchanged at “moderate.”
The deputy head of the foreign Norwegian Intelligence Service Lars Nordrum said that Norway’s oil and gas installations could be targeted by Russian sabotage. NSM head Sofie Nystrøm warned that “all of Europe will suffer” if Norwegian gas and oil installations were hit.
“Norway is now Europe’s most important energy supplier after Russia ended its gas exports to the West,” said Nordrum. But PST assessed that it’s unlikely Russia would carry out any sabotage operation on Norwegian soil this year.
Desecrating a book held sacred by a religious community is protected in Scandinavian countries by freedom of speech.
On Feb. 2, police in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, had barred a group to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy that would have involved setting a fire a copy of the Quran on grounds that security could not be ensured “in a satisfactory manner” at the event.
Ankara is angry that anti-Turkish protests have been allowed to take place, and particularly that it has not prevented an anti-Muslim activist from repeatedly burning the Quran, the Muslim holy book. In Stockholm and Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.
Last week, the Swedish domestic security agency SAPO warned that the threat of attacks in Sweden has increased in the weeks since a far-right activist burned a Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. An application to stage a protest during which the Quran was to be burned was turned down with Swedish police saying that “such a gathering is judged to be capable of causing serious disturbances to national security.”