London - Norway's bomb and gun rampage by a Christian fundamentalist with suspected ties to far-right militants confronts Europe with the possibility that a new paramilitary threat is emerging.
One analyst called it possibly Europe's 'Oklahoma City' moment, a reference to American right-wing militant Timothy McVeigh, who detonated a truck bomb at a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.
Norwegian television TV2 reported yesterday that Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian man detained after the attacks, had links to right-wing extremism.
'If true, this would be pretty significant - such a far-right attack in Europe, and certainly Scandinavia, would be unprecedented,' said Mr Hagai Segal, a security specialist at New York University's London campus.
Police forces in many Western European countries were already worried about rising far-right sentiment, fuelled by a toxic mix of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry and increasing economic hardship.
'The next key question is whether he was acting alone, or whether he is part of a group,' said Mr Segal.
A report by European police agency Europol on security last year said that there was no right-wing terrorism on the continent in that period. But it added the far right was becoming very professional at producing online propaganda of an anti-Semitic and xenophobic nature and was increasingly active in online social networking.
If the unrest in the Arab world, especially in North Africa, leads to a major influx of immigrants into Europe, 'right-wing extremism and terrorism might gain a new lease on life', the Europol report added.
In an unclassified national security outlook for this year published by the Norway Police Security Service (PST), the service said it saw a picture of 'increased uncertainty'.
'Norwegian far-right extremists are in contact with Swedish far-right extremists, as well as with other far-right extremist groups in Europe. Contact also takes place between Norwegian and Russian far-right extremists,' it said.
Mr Michael Whine, at the Community Security Trust, an agency of the British Jewish community, said the willingness to employ extreme violence in defence of European 'values' is apparent in the ideology of several groups, which claim supporters in Croatia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland, Slovenia and Sweden.
Said Mr Segal: 'The tactics and actuality of these attacks would be quite striking if carried out by a domestic far-right actor - trying to kill Norway's Prime Minister is one thing and not surprising from any extremist elements, but killing average citizens in this manner is very, very unusual indeed for far-right supremacists, and certainly for ones in Europe.'