- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

From combined dispatches

OSLO — Prosecutors yesterday revealed a taped conversation in which four men plotted to blow up the U.S. and Israeli embassies and discussed their participation in a shooting at the Oslo synagogue last weekend.

Norwegian public radio said the suspects arrested earlier this week also planned to kidnap the Israeli ambassador and cut off his head.

Prosecutor Unni Fries told a court that Norwegian secret services had bugged the car of the main suspect and recorded conversations between the men planning the attacks.

“They spoke in detail about how to attack the synagogue and the U.S. and Israeli embassies,” Mrs. Fries said, asking the court to detain all four suspects for four weeks without visitors or other contact with the outside world.

Early Sunday morning at least 10 shots fired from an automatic weapon hit Oslo’s only synagogue. No one was hurt in the shooting, the most serious in a string of attacks in recent months on the Nordic country’s small Jewish community.

Police have identified the detainees only as men between the ages of 20 and 30. Defense lawyers, who stated their clients were innocent, also said one suspect is of Turkish origin, two have Pakistani backgrounds and the fourth one is Norwegian.

Mrs. Fries said the main suspect had “expressed extreme Islamist views” and was briefly detained during this summer’s World Cup by German police, who found drawings of rockets in his car.

During a trip to Britain in June, he was reported to have told his girlfriend over the telephone that he “felt that he had to act,” Mr. Fries said. She did not say whether prosecutors were linking the suspects with any extremist organization.

The U.S. Embassy said it was watching developments closely and would cooperate fully with Norwegian authorities.

“We are deeply concerned about the emerging information on these planned terrorist attacks,” Ambassador Ben Whitney said. “This situation reflects the importance of having the necessary legal tools to prevent terrorism.”

The four men could face jail terms of up to 12 years if convicted of conspiring to carry out acts of terror.

The state radio network NRK and Norway’s main newspapers reported that the suspects discussed a plan to decapitate Israeli Ambassador Miriam Shomrat.

“The shooting against the synagogue was serious in itself. If there were really plans to carry out assassinations, it is extra serious,” Mrs. Shomrat told the Norweigian newspaper Verdens Gang.

The four men were arrested on charges of vandalism to a religious building. However, police announced Thursday that the charge had been changed to organizing an act of terrorism. Authorities were seeking a court order yesterday to continue holding the men for questioning.

A defense attorney for one suspect, Vegard Aaloekken, confirmed to NRK that the new charges include charges of a terror plot against embassies.

The suspect who was briefly detained in Germany was a 29-year-old Norwegian of Pakistani descent. He was briefly held in Germany in June on suspicion of planning an act of terrorism against the soccer World Cup, NRK radio and other news outlets reported.

He was released without charges. He also was charged last week with firing gunshots at the home of a Norwegian journalist in Oslo earlier this year, reports said.

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