Latvia on first ever terror alert

  • 2004-11-01
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - For the first time in Latvian history, the security services put the country on a terror alert after reportedly receiving information from Norwegian, American and Estonian government sources about a possible terrorist attack.

The Norwegian Embassy in Riga was closed on Nov. 1. A government spokesperson claimed, however, that the move was not connected with recent warnings posted on American Embassy Web sites in Latvia and Finland asking American citizens in the Baltic and Nordic countries to be especially "vigilant as to their surroundings" on and around Nov. 1, one day before U.S elections.

Karsten Klepsvik, a spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, said in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on Nov. 1 that the decision to close the embassy was made several days beforehand. However, the embassy reopened in the Latvian capital on Nov. 3.

Warnings posted on U.S. Embassy Web sites asked Americans in all three Baltic countries "to report any unusual or suspicious persons, incidents or circumstances to the nearest police authorities," as well as to avoid large shopping areas and transportation hubs. The U.S. government later updated the threat to include Americans also living in the Nordic countries.

"There is no reason for hysteria. The threat level is not serious enough to avoid public places. If it increases, then we will inform people," Dainis Mikelsons, press secretary for the Constitution Protection Bureau, Latvia´s secret service, told The Baltic Times. The American and Estonian embassies, however, did not close.

The Latvian government raised its own terror threat level a week ago, but the warning was only made public on the night of Oct. 29. Security services said that the threat came from a radical Islamic group based in Scandinavia, although members of the organization have not yet crossed into the Baltic state. The information leading to a terror warning was not made public, nor was the country where the terrorist group was located.

Norway increased its terror threat from low to moderate in October after the Nordic country had been mentioned in a tape reportedly from Al-Qaida.