As Norway’s exposure to home-grown jihadis grows, a 24-year-old Norwegian faces up to nine years in prison for “support for a terrorist organisation” having been accused of pledging allegiance to one or both of Islamic State (IS) and an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
Some see this as Norway’s exported problem coming home to roost. In April this year Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told Sweden’s Expressen newspaper that Norway and other countries have only themselves to blame for their home-grown jihadis. He accused “European officials” of “selling their values and allowing the Wahhabi dark ideology to infiltrate and be instilled in some communities”, in exchange for money from “countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar” adding “the most dangerous leaders of [IS] in our region are Scandinavian…that’s what we have as information.”
Prior to those comments Norway’s intelligence service head, Lieutenant General Kjell Grandhagen, told Norway’s Dagbladet newspaper that several new Norwegians hold middle management and leadership positions in IS. This included a Norwegian-Eritrean from Skien, who was reported to have become an IS commander in 2014.
The Local reports that in October 2013 Ishaq Ahmed left Norway for Syria where prosecutors allege he fought for IS and then latterly Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat Al-Nusra (the Al-Nusra Front). The indictment claims Ahmed made the trip “to seriously intimidate the Syrian population and force the Syrian government to hand over power.”
Ahmed claims to be innocent, saying his trip to Syria was only for humanitarian purposes in opposition to oppression. His lawyers say he neither supported nor planned terrorist acts in any way.
Unfortunately for him his Facebook showed photographs of him posing with weapons and prosecutors say he carried out online research into weapons and body armour in the months before he left Norway. Prosecutor Geir Evanger said:
“We have found no evidence of humanitarian work or an effort to procure medical materials.”
It appears that medical aid was not in abundance in Syria. After about five months in the country Ahmed returned to Norway having been shot in the leg. He crossed the border into Turkey in early 2014, contacted the Norwegian embassy and demanded to be repatriated.
The indictment further alleges that having returned to Norway, Ahmed maintained contact with ISIS members, pledging to raise money and collect clothes, shoes and other equipment to send to Syria’s jihadis. Under Norway’s criminal code anyone participating in, recruiting for, or providing financial or other support to a terrorist organisation faces prosecution.
Ahmed’s trial is only Norway’s second one over suspected links to IS. The first in early May ended with the imprisonment of three men.
The Local reported Albanian-Norwegian 28-year-old Valon Avdyli was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for fighting for IS. His 25-year-old brother Visar received just seven months for aiding the organisation and violating weapons laws. Somali-Norwegian 30-year-old Djibril Abdi Bashir was jailed for four years three months for travelling to Syria to work with IS.
In his April interview Assad reminded the newspaper he had warned at the start of Syria’s civil war that it would end up with terror attacks in Europe:
“They didn’t listen, so what happened was warned of before, and what we saw in France, in Charlie Hebdo, the suicide attempts in Copenhagen, in London, in Spain, ten years ago, this is only the tip of the iceberg.”