Freitag, 22. Juli 2011

The Attacks on Norway - UPDATED

Apparently, Norwegian police now thinks that there is in all likelihood no connection between the terrorist attacks and al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda affiliate. So my first impression was wrong, to me it looked like an al-Qaeda inspired one (and you'll find why below). And I thought I leave the post as it stands with this clarification on top. As Special Agent Gibbs said in rule #51 Sometimes - You're Wrong.

I was working on a post on Pakistan when the bomb struck the capital of Norway. And though it is still unclear who is responsible for the attack, it is becoming increasingly clear that the attack is bearing all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda affiliate. Let me briefly explain why.

First, there is the modus operandi of the attack. Al-Qaeda has always attempted dual attacks on separate targets largely at the same time (which is why it is a good idea to look for further bombs). The bombing is a more traditional approach, the Utoya-attack seems to be inspired by the Mumbai-attacks, though the Utoya youth camp presented an even softer target than the Mumbai hotel. European terrorist organisations (both left and right wing ones) have always been satisfied with a single strike.

Second, both attacks were designed to kill indiscriminately. Again European left and right wing terrorist organisations usually do not aim at an indiscriminate killing, they aim for specific targets, a symbol of the state or the financial sector. The attack on Utoya is in stark contrast to these comparatively limited aims of European terrorist organisations.

Third, the attack might well be a retaliation for the killing of OBL and might be a way for Ayman al-Zawahiri to demonstrate that he is now calling the shots. It might have been a demonstration of power to two separate audiences. The West (“The war isn't over”) and al-Qaeda affiliates (“Someone is calling the shots here”). Timing would fit that explanation, since, after all, it takes some time to come up with planning and preparation for such a sophisticated attack. Ten to twelve weeks since Zawahiri is in charge sound about right.

It could have been a copycat, but that's highly unlikely. It seems highly likely, however, that its been either al-Qaeda or perhaps even more likely that its been an al-Qaeda affiliate that ultimately has some links to al-Qaeda and has sworn its allegiance to Zawahiri. 

What does that mean? Good question. Norway has been a steadfast NATO ally, it has contributed to the Libya mission and al-Qaeda might hope for another Spain-style success (after the Madrid bombings, Spain pulled out of the Iraqi coalition). But that is in no way assured. The Kampala-world-soccer bombings have not triggered a Ugandan withdrawal from Somalia, to the contrary. The Ugandan resilience has been surprising and astounding and turned out to be a real problem for al-Shabaab. Terrorism can be self-defeating. But today I close simply by saying: I dag er vi alle norske.

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