Norway: Stolen cars used for terror

In Iraq, of course.

More and more cars stolen in Norway are turning up in Iraq, with some of them being used by suicide bombers.

These three cars stolen in Norway were found in northern Iraq. They were photographed at the Turkish border, waiting to get sent back to Norway.

The car thefts in Norway are thus being linked to terrorist activity and the financing of terrorism.

Car thefts have often been carried out by criminals who later use them in armed robberies, the drug trade or for sale in developing countries. Investigators are now tracking them to the Middle East, where sometimes their license plates are merely covered over by local plates.

Many of the cars carry large loans, meaning their theft amounts to a swindle against the lender financing them or the car's insurance company. Nearly 60 stolen cars worth as much as NOK 20 million are believed to have been sent to northern Iraq via Syria and Turkey as early as 2004.

Geir Skjelstad, whose company Hera AS works for an automobile finance company, claims some of the cars were then smuggled into southern Iraq. "The information we're getting is that they are used in suicide bombings or in other terrorist operations," he told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend.

Skjelstad's job, though, is to track the actual asset and try to recover it. All additional investigations are a job for the police.

Norway's special police unit handling economic crime (├śkokrim) is working with Norwegian intelligence forces to track the criminal organizations that finance terrorism with assets stolen in Norway, reports Aftenposten.

Police officials won't comment on Skjelstad's specific cases, but confirms that terrorist activity is being investigated in connection with organized crime believed to be behind armed robbery, the weapons trade and narcotics trafficking.

"Norway, as an open democracy, is a country that can be used for activities within terrorism," said Trond Hugubakken of the intelligence unit PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste). "We don't see that terrorism is isolated from other crimes."

Around 10,000 cars are stolen in Norway every year, but only about one in five are ever recovered. The rest of the cases are left unresolved, meaning huge payouts for the insurance companies.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

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