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Chess Olympiad amid tight security

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Armed police patrol outside the airport terminal building in Oslo, Norway.

Carl Jacobs

The T&T contingent to the 41st World Chess Olympiad is expected to arrive in Norway tomorrow while the country is bracing itself for an attack by ISIS jihadists.

Reports from the capital Copenhagen say the country is now on its highest security alert in response to “credible evidence of a planned attack probably by Islamic jihadists with combat experience.”

Norwegian experts believe that the threat comes from the Islamic State (ISIS) and Mullah Krekar, a controversial Kurdish cleric, who founded the extremist group Ansar-al-Islam and has known ties to al-Qaeda. Krekar has been jailed in Norway since 2012.

Magnus Ranstop, an internationally recognised expert on terrorism, believes that jihadi warriors from Syria share links with Mullah Krekar’s network in Norway.

“This means that Norway is interesting as a terrorist target for these Islamist groups. Krekar’s international network, during the Iraq war, was also prominent at the time,” Ranstop said.

Lars Gule, another expert on jihadi groups, is convinced that the threat comes from Islamic State, the Sunni militants fighting in Syria and in control of one third of Iraq.

“Although ISIS is currently focusing most on Iraq and Syria, they have a global ideology where they fight everywhere,” Gule added. One reason why the extremist group has Norway in its sight is because the country has been actively involved in the US-led war in Afghanistan. Also, the 2002 publication of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed in neighbouring Denmark, which many Muslims found highly offensive, had also made Scandinavian countries a target.

Meanwhile, US intelligence authorities have confirmed that the terrorist threat against Norway is credible, according to US television network ABC News.

However “credible” they seem to be, DR can only hope that these terrorist threats remain no more than what they are, threats. And that the 41st World Chess Olympiad, which is expected to draw teams from 180 countries, will proceed to demonstrate the value of a great sport in bringing combatants from all over the world together in friendly and unifying competition.

DR has referred T&TCA vice president Trevor Flower to reports about the tense situation in Norway so that members of our contingent, players and officials, would be made aware of the extensive security measures the Norwegian authorities are taking in the face of these threats. 

According to the Norwegian police security service, their threat assessment is based on information that a jihadist group has left Syria heading for Europe with plans for conducting a terrorist attack. Norway has been mentioned specifically as a target.

Security officals hope that reaching out to the public with this information will deter the terrorists from proceeding with their plan.

Ersley Andersen, a researcher and author of books on terrorism, believes that the recent anniversary of terrorist attacks in Norway has also contributed to the sense of panic in the country. 

It was also pointed out that Mullah Krekar has been on the United Nations’ terror list since 2006. Six years later, he was sentenced to five years in prison in Norway for threats against the country’s politicians. Iraq has demanded his extradition for trial but that has been denied.

Meanwhile, Norwegian papers report that heavily armed police are patrolling streets, airports, ports, train stations and other transport hubs together with extended immigration and border guards.

The tension now gripping the whole of Norway is hardly the kind of atmosphere conducive to playing chess at Olympiad level. DR can only hope that our players will give of their best in spite of these uneasy circumstances.


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