A Norwegian man who received terrorist training in Yemen is "operational" and is likely awaiting instructions to attack Western targets, according to a report by The Associated Press, which was confirmed by an ABC News intelligence source.
The AP reported today that officials from three European security agencies said that the man, who was not identified, is in his 30s, a convert to Islam and had completed training from the al Qaeda offshoot AQAP. One of the officials said the man was believed to still be in Yemen, but said that he has no criminal record and would be able to move freely across borders.
"Not even a parking ticket," the official said, according to the AP. "He's completely clean and he can travel anywhere."
The officials declined to say what particular preventative measures were being taken in light of the threat, but other sources told ABC News they are well aware of the threat posed by European extremists – including those from Scandinavian countries – who have traveled to Yemen. Those sources recalled the May underwear bomb plot hatched in Yemen that was to be launched by an operative from England – a man who turned out to be a Western intelligence asset who had managed to infiltrate the cell of the plotters.
The AP report came the same day that Britain's top counter-terror official, MI-5 head Jonathan Evans, made a rare public speech in which he said Yemen in particular was a popular training destination for European-born would-be terrorists who pose a "serious threat" to Western nations.
"In May of this year a plot by al Qaeda in Yemen to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic was narrowly averted," Evans said. "Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Somalia and the Sahel have become more dangerous as al Qaeda in Pakistan has declined."
Western officials have long feared extremists who carry valid European or American passports. A Congressional report released last year noted that an estimated 40 Americans had traveled to Somalia to join the al Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabaab -- jihadists with the right documentation to present a "serious threat" to the homeland.
A spokesperson for Norway's PST security service told the AP an terrorism assessment released there in February noted that "several" Islamic extremists have traveled from Norway to conflict zones for training. Officials at the CIA declined to comment for this report.