Evidence as to who was responsible for a huge bombing in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Friday may have been lacking, but recent history suggests it could be the work of Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.
One prime source of grievance for such groups is the fact that Norway has about 500 troops taking part in military operations in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has threatened retaliation unless the troops are withdrawn.
Less likely to be the cause of the bombing is Norwegian participation in the NATO bombing campaign in Libya. The government announced in June that it was reducing the number of fighter jets involved from six to four and would withdraw completely by Aug. 1.
A third possibility is that the bombing is retaliation for the 2010 publication in the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet of a cartoon showing the Prophet Muhammad as a pig writing the Qur’an. The publication brought out large-scale protests by Muslims, with 1,000 Muslim taxi drivers using their cars to block streets in central Oslo in February last year.
Dagbladet said it had published the cartoon not to provoke Muslims but to illustrate that the Facebook profile of the Police Security Service contained links to Muhammad cartoons.
These are not the same cartoons that a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published in 2005 and that brought demonstrations against Danish embassies in several Middle East capitals.
But the bombing occurred outside the offices of the newspaper VG (Verdens Gang), not outside the Dagbladet offices, and outside a collection of government buildings including the prime minister’s office.
Yet another possibility is that the bombing was linked to a controversy over Mullah Krekar, founder of the Kurdish armed Islamist group Ansar al-Islam. Norwegian prosecutors filed a terrorism charge against him on Tuesday after he threatened a former minister, Erna Solberg, with death if he is deported.
He came to Norway as a refugee from northern Iraq in 1991. His wife and four children have Norwegian nationality but he does not. His birth name was Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad.
In 2009 he announced he wanted to establish an Islamic Caliphate with Osama bin Laden as one of its leaders.
Oslo, a city of 1.4 million population, is a relatively easy target for terrorists. Residents interviewed after the bombing on Friday said security is fairly light around government buildings that appeared to be the focus of the attack, with no restrictions on driving and parking cars in front of them.
It is the fastest-growing city in Europe, due mostly to an influx of immigrants. About 25 per cent of the population is composed of immigrants.
Until now it has been a peaceful city. Terrorist attacks have occurred in neighboring Sweden but not in Norway.
(Ray Moseley is a London-based former chief European correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.)