Three alleged al Qaeda members were arrested Thursday morning in a joint U.S. and Norwegian counterterrorism effort. They are believed to have been plotting a terrorist attack using portable bombs similar to those an al Qaeda cell attempted to use in a thwarted attack on the New York City subway system last year. Prosecutors on Wednesday also revealed the existence of a related plot in Manchester, England.
Officials did not release the names of the men, but described the individuals as a 39-year-old Norwegian of Uighur origin, a 37-year-old Iraqi, and a 31-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan. Two of the suspects were arrested in Norway, while the third was arrested in Germany. They had been under surveillance for over a year.
Officials believe that former al Qaeda chief of external operations Salah al-Somali was behind the plot. Somali, who also helped organize the failed New York city attack, was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas in December 2009. Norway is thought to have been a target because it has contributed 500 soldiers to the internatioanl war effort in Afghanistan, and because of the furor sparked by a Danish newspaper’s decision in 2006 to publish 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.