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20 Jan, 2020 16:17

Norwegian libertarian party quits government leaving coalition without majority over ISIS bride repatriation

Norwegian libertarian party quits government leaving coalition without majority over ISIS bride repatriation

Norway’s Progress Party has quit the country’s coalition government after a jihadist bride and her children were allowed to return from Syria. The move leaves the remaining coalition partners ruling in a minority.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen announced the resignation of her Progress Party on Monday, after a woman suspected of marrying two Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) jihadists in Syria was given assistance to return to Norway over the weekend. The Norwegian government aided the woman’s return out of concern for the welfare of her children, but Jensen’s party had vehemently opposed any repatriation for Islamist fighters or their spouses.

“I brought us into government, and now I’m bringing the party out,” Jensen told reporters on Monday, adding that her Conservative, Liberal, and Christian Democratic coalition partners had forced her to make “too many compromises” to her platform of tax cuts and immigration restrictions.

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Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that she will remain in office as head of a minority coalition, and will fill the seven cabinet posts left vacant after the Progress Party’s departure. Early elections are not allowed by Norway’s constitution, and voters will decide the next government in September 2021.

The alleged IS bride is of Pakistani origin, and left Norway for Syria in 2013. She is believed to have married a Norwegian-Chilean IS fighter that year. The fighter, Bastian Vasquez, threatened the Norwegian government in a video he posted to YouTube. Another IS propaganda video shows Vasquez admitting to multiple murders and blowing up a police station, supposedly with Iraqi soldiers inside.

The woman remarried after Vasquez’s death in 2015. She has been held in a refugee camp in northern Syria since last March, along with her five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. The eldest child has a long-term illness, believed to be cystic fibrosis.

The decision to bring the woman and her children back to Norway was made last week on “humanitarian grounds,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said. 

Progress Party members greeted that announcement with derision. “The government negotiated with a terrorist,” lawmaker Roy Steffensen tweeted last week. “Terrorists won.”

Norway is not the only country to welcome back its IS spouses. Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, who married an IS jihadist and moved to Syria in 2015, was returned to Dublin last month from Istanbul, where she had been living since her capture by Turkish forces. Smith was arrested upon arrival.

Other European countries have been more reluctant to repatriate jihadists and their families – to the consternation of American and Turkish authorities, who are holding many of the captured fighters in Middle-Eastern prison camps. 

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised European leaders for not taking back the captured jihadis. “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?” he asked at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last month. "I can give them to you. You can take everyone you want.”

The Norwegian woman was arrested upon her return, and faces up to six years in prison if found guilty of participating in a terrorist organization.

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