Norwegian police say a vigilante group calling itself the Soldiers of Odin has made a first appearance in the Scandinavian country amid an influx of migrants.
Vestfold Police spokesman Torgny Alstad says about a dozen men dressed in black jackets, adorned with a Viking helmet and the group's name, patrolled the streets of Tonsberg near Norway's capital on Saturday night. He said Monday that officers watched the group but that no incidents were reported.
The Soldiers of Odin, who derive their name from a Norse god, was founded last year in Finland where it regularly conducts street patrols. The group says it's protecting residents from a perceived threat posed by migrants. The group claims about 600 members in Finland with groups in Britain, the U.S., Estonia, Germany and Sweden.
The group has been accused of xenophobia and of anti-immigrant vigilantism. Finland, a country of 5.4 million people, received over 32,000 asylum seekers last year, one of the highest amounts in Europe per capita. The government has made it clear that there is no place for vigilantes in Finland but police said they are keeping a close eye on the group.
The patrols have also prompted a counter-movement, with Facebook communities hoping to avert confrontations on the streets. Namely, the "Sisters of Kyllikki" was formed, named for a character in the national epic poem Kalevala. "Our aim is to help people and to increase dialogue among all Finns as well as immigrants," said Niina Ruuska, a founder of the group which has about 1,500 Facebook members.