Norwegian police worry that coronavirus upheaval could lead to more radicalisation

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian police said on Friday they were concerned that the social and economic strains caused by the coronavirus pandemic could lead to more radicalisation and extremist violence.

“It’s likely that an increased number of Norwegians will become vulnerable to radicalisation as a result of social and economic challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic,” the PST security police force said.

This would add to existing threats from extremist opponents of immigration as well as from radical Islamists, the police said. Like many other countries around the world, Norway has suffered economic and social disruption from efforts to curb the coronavirus.

While the risk of suffering one or more mass attacks in the next 18 months remains at a 50-50 probability, in line with an assessment presented at the start of the year, threats against individuals are likely to rise, albeit from low levels, the PST said.

“This is primarily caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an expected rise in right-wing extremism and the upcoming campaign for the general election due in the autumn of 2021,” it said.

The government earlier this week presented more measures to prevent radicalisation and recruitment to extremist groups.

“We must identify those who are at risk as early as possible, preventing that someone becomes susceptible to radicalisation,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a June 17 speech.

A far-right man was jailed last week for 21 years for the racially motivated murder last year of his Chinese-born stepsister and attempting to kill worshippers in a mosque shooting spree.

In Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity, far-right mass killer Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people in 2011.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Frances Kerry