Three linked to Al-Qaeda held: Norwegian police
Three men with links to Al-Qaeda and to foiled attacks in the United States and Britain were arrested Thursday suspected of planning acts of terror, Norwegian police and prosecutors said.
"Three people suspected ... of preparing a terrorist act and who have links to Al-Qaeda have been arrested today," Janne Kristiansen, the head of Norway's Police Security Service (PST), told reporters in Oslo.
Two people had been arrested in Norway, near Oslo, while one had been apprehended in Germany with assistance from German police, she said.
National prosecutor Jan Glent meanwhile told the press conference the three had been "charged with having entered into a partnership to commit a terrorist act."
"We consider this case very serious," he said, adding there was a high level of suspicion against the three, meaning there was more than a 50 percent chance that they were guilty of the crime they were suspected of.
"We also think they have links to Al Qaeda and to similar attempts (at terror attacks) in New York and Manchester," he said.
US prosecutors on Wednesday named top Al-Qaeda leaders suspected of masterminding a foiled plot last September to set off explosions in the New York metro system, and said one of the men was also linked to a bomb plot in the northeastern British city of Manchester last year.
Norwegian police meanwhile did not divulge where the suspected planned attacks had been set to take place.
The three men arrested Thursday "are suspected of committing terrorist crimes, period," Kristiansen said.
The names of the three were not given, but Kristiansen said one was a 39-year-old Norwegian citizen of Chinese Uighur origin.
Another was a 37-year-old Iraqi Kurd and the third, 31, had come to Norway as an asylum-seeker from Uzbekhistan. Both the foreign nationals had legal resident permits in Norway.
If found guilty of the crimes, they face up to 12 years in prison in Norway, where prison sentences tend to be short.
"PST has been investigating these individuals for a period," the agency said.
"Our service had sufficient control of these individuals during that period ... and according to our assessment the public have not been in any danger," it added.
The arrests had been made earlier than planned, the PST said, pointing out that "the international press was informed about parts of the case and wanted to publish it. This would result in a considerable risk of destruction of evidence and evasion in the further investigation of the case."
The agency also stressed only very small groups linked to terrorist activities existed in Norway and that most of them were merely involved in support work for activities abroad.
"We would therefore like to stress that today's apprehensions will not result in a different assessment of the current threat situation in Norway, and that the threat level will still be considered low," PST said.
© 2010 AFP