|Published:||Jul 08, 2010 11:50 AM EDT|
|Updated:||Jul 08, 2010 8:52 AM EDT|
OSLO (AP) - Three suspected al-Qaida members were arrested
Thursday morning in what Norwegian and U.S. officials said was a
terrorist plot linked to similar plans in New York and England.
The three men, whose names were not released, had been under
surveillance for more than a year. Officials believe they were
planning attacks with portable but powerful bombs like the ones at
the heart of last year's thwarted suicide attack in the New York
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called that one of the
most serious terrorist plots since 9/11. On Wednesday, prosecutors
revealed the existence of a related plot in Manchester, England.
Officials believe the Norway plan was organized by Salah al-Somali,
al-Qaida's former chief of external operations, the man in charge
of plotting attacks worldwide.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to discuss the case. The Norwegian Police Security
Service said only that the three were arrested on suspicion of
"preparing terror activities."
Al-Somali, who was killed in a CIA drone airstrike last year,
has been identified in U.S. court documents as one of the
masterminds of the New York subway plot. Two men have pleaded
guilty in that case, admitting they planned to detonate explosives
during rush hour. A third man awaits trial.
A news conference was planned for later Thursday.
Officials said it was not clear the men had selected a target
for the attacks but they were attempting to make peroxide bombs,
the powerful homemade explosives that prosecutors say were
attempted in both New York and England.
U.S. and Norwegian counterterrorism officials worked closely
together to unravel the Norwegian plot, officials said. Janne
Kristiansen, the head of the Police Security Service, traveled to
the U.S. this spring to discuss some of the closely held
intelligence that been gathered in the case.
In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd had no
Officials did not say why Norway was a target, but al-Qaida No.
2 Ayman al-Zawahri has called for attacks on Norway, among other
Magnus Norell, a terrorism expert at the Swedish Defense
Research Agency, said Norway's 500 troops in Afghanistan could be a
factor, as could the 2006 controversy sparked by a Danish
newspaper's publication of 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet
Norell said the controversy has extended to neighboring Norway
and Sweden after newspapers there republished the cartoons and
later published similar cartoons. Images of Muhammad, even
favorable ones, are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.