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Oslo increases security in city centre

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Nancy Bundt – Visitnorway.com

Concrete boxes of flowers placed against potential attacks

During the night, work crews in Oslo were busy putting in place heavy concrete planter boxes filled with flowers along the city centre’s best-known boulevard. The aim is to stop any terrorists from driving down Karl Johans Gate, most of which pedestrian-only and popular among tourists.

The move comes after concerns were expressed about Oslo’s vulnerability to such attacks, voiced most recently by a security official from the UK. The city’s municipality was criticised by Nick Aldworth of the London Metropolitan Police after he had been in Oslo to speak at a conference, telling the Norwegian tabloid VG last week that he was unimpressed by security in the city.

Karl Johans Gate is a straight, tree-lined avenue that stretches between the central train station and the Royal Palace. The boxes that are now being put there are terror barriers in disguise. The decision follows vehicle-driven attacks in cities like New York, Barcelona and London.

A number of them have been in place around the country’s parliament building, located at one end of Karl Johans Gate, for several years. Although city mayor Raymond Johansen denies he is acting on anti-terror measures in direct response to Aldworth’s comments, more heavy boxes filled with earth, flowers and plants are now appearing.

“Oslo is a safe city,” Johansen claimed. “We can’t wall ourselves in because of a fear of terrorism, but we can try to prevent it. That’s the background for why we’re now carrying out some risk-reducing measures in parts of downtown.”

No concrete threat
The mayor told Norwegian broadcaster NRK: “We’ve been working on this project since the end of August, and it’s not an acute situation. It’s completely coincidental that [Aldworth’s] remarks came last week, but they do say something about the seriousness of the situation.”

He added: “There is no concrete threat against Oslo. […] We shall reduce the risk of intentional rundowns in the city centre but at the same time we want to have a lively city centre. Delivery trucks and emergency vehicles will be allowed through but we think the measures now taken will reduce the risk.”

Heavy boxes and benches will also be laid out around Jernbanetorget – a plaza outside the train station – and along Lille Grensen and Arbeidergata. Some of the barriers are temporary while others are permanent, and rules for delivery truck access will also be tightened.

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