Norwegian police discovered the makings of a bomb lab in an Oslo apartment when arresting a suspected al-Qaida cell last month, according to reports. An investigation by the Associated Press (AP) has revealed that authorities had been tracking the group for a long time after intercepting emails between them and an al-Qaida operative in Pakistan.
Thanks to the early warning signs, officers were apparently then able to replace a bomb-making ingredient with a harmless liquid when it was ordered from an Oslo pharmacy by one of the suspected terrorists. According to officials, other plots were also being hatched to target a shopping centre in Manchester, England, and a busy New York subway.
After reviewing documents and conducting interviews with unnamed European and US intelligence officials, AP has concluded that the suspected terror cell was badly organised and doomed to fail long before the raids on the unassuming Oslo basement in July. The news agency claims that the plot’s undoing has shed light on the pitfalls of al-Qaida’s changing tactics since the highly organised September 11 attacks in New York.
al-Qaeda has been forced to decentralise its efforts and rely on amateurs to recruit local cells and carry out small-level attacks with little planning and training, says the AP. While such plots are harder to detect, there is often greater room for operational errors, according to the officials interviewed.
Norwegian authorities say 39-year-old Mikael Davud, an Uighur who came to Norway from China in 1999 as part of a refugee programme, was the ringleader of the plot against the country. He was arrested along with 37-year-old Iraqi Kurd Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak Bujak and 31-year-old Uzbek national David Jakobsen on 8th July.
All three men were living in Norway and were apparently discovered after their frequent and poorly coded emails to al-Qaida bosses in Pakistan were picked up by police.
The Norwegian Police Security Service has declined to comment on the AP story as the investigation is still ongoing. The trio denies having any connections with terror groups.