Written by Van D. Hipp, Jr. - former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army
This week brought welcomed news and a wake-up call in the Global War on Terror from the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Norwegian police officials confirmed on Thursday morning that they had arrested three men with connections to Al Qaeda and plans to carry out terrorist attacks not unlike those stymied in New York City and Manchester, England last year. The arrest was accompanied by tough talk from Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg who reassured the world that Norway has "no tolerance for the use of terror and violence to achieve goals."
The problem with Stoltenberg's tough talk is that it's just that: only talk. The fact is, Norway has provided safe haven to a known extremist Islamic leader for almost 20 years. So much for "no tolerance."
The Kurdish Sunni Islamist Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad (or Mullah Krekar) is recognized as the original leader of the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam and has praised Osama bin Laden as the "jewel in the crown of Islam." He came to Norway as a refugee from northern Iraq in 1991, but in August of 2002, the Norwegian government rightly revoked his refugee status because he had traveled to Iraq on several occasions to help train terrorists. Nevertheless, while his status has been revoked, he continues to live in Norway despite the nation's wishes to send him back to Iraq. Due to international treaties which prohibit Norway from deporting an individual to a country which cannot guarantee he or she will not be met with torture or execution, Krekar remains in Norway's capital city of Oslo.
And if you think Krekar's precarious position after almost two decades (particularly the last eight years) may have caused him to tone down his act - think again. In a press conference held less than a month ago, he threatened Norwegian Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg by claiming she would pay with her life if the Norwegian government were to deport him. In the same press conference, Krekar encouraged people to blow themselves up in Iraq and identified Americans as the primary target in that country. He continued by commenting on the Israeli attack on the convoys to Gaza, saying that he would "fight the Jews with his teeth."
There's strong evidence that the three suspects apprehended in Norway this week had been planning terrorist attacks with Al Qaeda leader Salah al-Somalia before his death in a drone attack in Pakistan late last year. Given their association with Al Qaeda and connection with the failed terrorist attempts intended for New York and Manchester in 2009, isn't it high time to revisit Mullah Krekar's status in Norway?
The fact is, this week was a wake-up call for Norway. Housing terrorists is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. How can we know that Krekar has not played a role in the three suspects' planning when we know Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam are cooperating? How can we know that Krekar's fingerprints aren't on other plans that haven't come to light? Is this a chance Norway really wants to take?
Mullah Krekar, a member of both the U.S. and U.N. list of terror suspects, has stated before he wishes to move to Cuba. Prime Minister Stoltenberg, it's time to grant Krekar his wish. The United States has a nearby location that would welcome him with open arms: Guantanamo Bay. After all, behind bars in Gitmo is a much more fitting residence for this known criminal than an apartment in Oslo.
About the Author:
Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in government affairs, business development and public relations. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army. Mr. Hipp also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Norwegian American Foundation.