Hystaiga cleared of responsibility for nightclub attack, jet shootdown
“The people responsible for the attacks are still out there and pose a significant threat”
Tove Jakobsdóttir (she/her), Chief politics writer
Tuesday, 14 November 2023
Warning: This article contains discussion of graphic violence, harassment, and suicide.
Ravneby — For the first time, the Valkyrian government has cleared the Hystaigan government of any responsibility for two 2019 events that then-Prime Minister Stella Kaufman gave as a pretext for the Kalkara War, one of the bloodiest wars that Valkyria had ever fought.
In the early morning of 13 June 2019, more than 200 people, mostly university-age Valkyrians, were enjoying prewinter festivities at a Ravneby nightclub. It would not be long before 192 of them would perish in an act of terrorism. With many of the building’s exits barred shut, the perpetrators released sarin, a toxic nerve agent, into the building, killing almost all of the building’s occupants.
In the late evening hours of 14 October, Captain Kaia Simonsen and Specialist Kalervo Mäkelä took flight near the Hystaigan–Valkyrian border. It would be the last time they would ever fly again. An unidentified rocket fired from the ground on the Hystaigan side of the mountainous border that is called Mount Kalkara struck their jet, instantly killing the two pilots and sending their remains and the aircraft itself crashing into the mountain.
By 28 October, the Valkyrian government led by Kaufman reached the conclusion that Hystaiga was responsible for both of these events, steering the nation towards a conflict with its western neighbour that would last nearly three years, the duration of her term as prime minister.
Valkyrian Prime Minister Steve Bennett gave an address on the floor of the storting, opposite of Kaufman, who now serves as the Leader of the Opposition. In it, Bennett looked straight at Kaufman and accused her and the Kaufman government of “irrational governance” and “jumping to conclusions” about the two events without having conducted a thorough inquiry into each of them.
The Socialist prime minister stated that the National Police have concluded that both of these events were committed by parties that did not involve the Hystaigan government or any person with ties to Hystaiga. In the case of the nightclub, the National Police determined that a Valkyrian militia group called Svartedauden (Black Death) was responsible for the attack, targeting the nightclub’s occupants for their perceived opposition to the group’s political goals.
As for the fighter jet, a Valkyrian man associated with a cultist movement in the nation’s northern reach has been arrested in connection to the shootdown. Based on the information provided by the National Police, the person in question fired a rocket at the jet from the Hystaigan side of the border to provoke an international conflict between the two central Cordilian nations.
The prime minister stated that the National Police have begun manhunts for the perpetrators of these attacks. The Office of Cultist Movement Investigations (Kontor for undersøkelser av kultistbevegelser, KUKB) and Centre for Organised Crime (Senter for organisert kriminalitet, SOK) within the National Police will respectively conduct the searches for the cultist and militia groups responsible for the attacks.
In his address, Bennett was also critical of the nation’s security services, particularly the Intelligence Directorate-General (Generaldirektoratet for Etterretning, GDE) for their failure to detect the rising threat posed by cultist movements and militia groups operating within Valkyria, which had been growing in popularity in the mid-2010s.
When Taeler Shaw became home minister in 2022, she initiated several reforms that saw the GDE open a task force with the National Police to conduct intelligence gathering on cultists and militias, the Domestic Counterterrorism Task Force (Innenlandsk arbeidsgruppe mot terror, IAGT). So far, the intelligence collected by the IAGT has been useful, resulting in the March 2023 arrests of more than a thousand suspected cultists, including the controversial arrest of Northern Party leader Jake Marshall.
However, the IAGT’s intelligence-gathering activities regarding militias within Valkyria have been sparse. While the task force was successful in accumulating information on suspected cultists, the investigation into militias has proved difficult for Valkyrian security services. According to the home minister, militias have been more defensive of their operational security compared to cultist movements, making intelligence gathering on militias a more cumbersome task.
Very little is known about Svartedauden, a militia group that largely operates on encrypted networks, using overlays and virtual private networks to hide their tracks. Groups such as Svartedauden have made extensive use of encrypted messaging services to hide their communications from internet service providers, mobile network operators, and law enforcement.
The difficult task presented by militias like Svartedauden has been reflective of the arrests the National Police have made related to suspected militia activities, which has been less than 40 in 2023 alone, compared to the thousands of arrests made in connection to suspected cultist activities.
What is known about Svartedauden is its ideology and activities. The militia is overtly fascist, taking on imagery, symbols, and slogans from the fascist dictatorship that ruled over Valkyria for almost half of the 20th century, and glorifying Marshall Fallen, who served as the Chief of the Valkyrian Empire from 1923 until his death in 1966. The group does not consider the governments that succeeded the fascist regime since 1970 as legitimate.
Formed in 2004, Svartedauden was initially a group chat for six former students from the University of Gullkysten who were expelled after they attacked a socialist student. They spent 10 years in prison for the assault but reconnected after their release in 2015. The six co-founders of Svartedauden have not been seen in public or communicated with their relatives since, making it difficult for the National Police to locate them.
Today, the GDE estimates that Svartedauden has more than 2000 members across Valkyria, which was made possible due to the extensive social media campaign that the group has waged since its leaders’ release in 2015. Their ability to recruit was compounded by the political success of social democrat Margaret Harrison in 2016, who was the furthest left-wing leader elected in Valkyria at the time.
In its initial years, the group operated in the shadows, undetected by the Valkyrian security services. During this time, Svartedauden concentrated on recruitment and radicalisation, targeting disenchanted youths in secondary schools, universities, and workplaces. The election of Harrison as the president of Qvait and later as the prime minister of a united Qvait and Austurland – Valkyria – was an inflexion point for the group.
Harrison’s leadership tilted the nation to the left more than it had ever been with social democracy, feminism, and internationalism – all ideologies antithetical to Svartedauden – taking on a newfound role in Valkyria. According to University of Ravneby politics professor Magnus Djupvik, the rise of Svartedauden is attributable to the sociocultural backlash that ensued following Harrison’s rise to power.
Indeed, after Harrison’s election in 2016, alleged cultist movements grew in popularity at the same time and rate as militia groups. However, only the former caught the attention of the National Police, which was possible due to the persistence of the Populist Left, a party composed of mostly northern rural, agrarian social democrats who faced a greater threat from cultists. The militias that gained traction at the same time did not catch the attention of the Valkyrian security services.
In 2017, Svartedauden was responsible for the suicides of at least 19 people, 17 of whom were Valkyrian, after engaging in online harassment campaigns against them on social media. At the time, the National Police were unable to connect Svartedauden to the suicides until 2023. The harassment campaigns are thought to be the first criminal actions committed by the group.
Eventually, the group started leaving propaganda posters on university campuses and tagging dormitory doors with left-facing arrows to signify that the occupant was a leftist. In 2018, Svartedauden engaged in street fights with left-wing activists on university campuses, though they remained masked to maintain the secrecy of the group.
The 2019 attack on the Ravneby nightclub represented a new level of crime for Svartedauden in terms of the organisation and planning necessary to execute the attack. Some former police investigators and intelligence analysts have told VKS that it would take highly-trained soldiers to execute the attack without a single member being arrested or killed, leading to speculation that those within Svartedauden who carried out the attack were current or former members of the Valkyrian Defence Force who had access to the military’s chemical reserves.
When Kaufman called for a declaration of war on Hystaiga in November 2019, she said that the National Police and GDE told her that “no non-state actor that can conceivably conduct an attack on Valkyria with chemical weapons and leave very little evidence of their responsibility”, but if active-duty Valkyrian soldiers with access to the nation’s chemical weapons arsenal indeed colluded with a neo-fascist militia, these facts change the calculus.
On Tuesday, Bennett stated that the national government will conduct an inquiry into the security services’ shortcomings, but the National Police and GDE will now conduct extensive investigations into Valkyrian militias moving forward, and the Valkyrian military will audit those who have access to the nation’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The implication that Svartedauden potentially has members in active service in the Valkyrian Defence Force has thrown one of the world’s most elite militaries into turmoil. Since 2016, the Defence Force has rigorously vetted its newest recruits for any signs of radicalism, but a loophole in the regulations exempted those who were already serving from being subject to the new vetting procedures.
Bennett, himself a former member of Njord Group, the most elite Special Forces unit within the Defence Force, said that soldiers found to be complicit in Svartedauden's activities would be court-martialed and imprisoned, “If anyone in the Defence Force collaborated with these fascists, they are traitors and enemies of freedom and will be treated with the utmost disdain accorded to such.”
With the threat that Svartedauden potentially poses, Bennett has called for a nationwide state of emergency, adding a new one on top of the existing state of emergency recently declared for Valkyria’s northern reach. The storting will vote on the declaration later Tuesday after interparty discussions on the declaration’s language. Thereafter, Jarlskona Kate Murphy will have to decide whether to grant her assent to the declaration of a state of emergency.
If granted, Valkyria will be under a nationwide state of emergency for the first time since its one and only invocation in 2019 due to the attacks. During such a state of emergency, which will likely be invoked due to the threat of an insurrection, the Valkyrian constitution permits the national government to mobilise the entire Defence Force to assist the National Police with their investigations and arrests. Further, the police and military will be able to detain people without trial for up to three months as opposed to three days.
The address from the prime minister drew strong reactions from all sides of the storting, evoking a variety of responses from those present. The feeling of the room was tense as Bennett identified Svartedauden as the perpetrators of the nightclub attack. However, audible jeers were coming from the opposition when Bennett accused Kaufman of naivety.
Kaufman, the first to respond to Bennett’s address in her position as the Leader of the Opposition, called his address to the storting as “chilling” and hoped that the people responsible for the attacks were brought to justice, but said that the accusations towards her were “ludicrous”. The former prime minister said that she “followed the facts” as they were known then and that her declaration of war was directly tied to the information provided to her by the National Police and GDE.
Kaufman went on to accuse her successor of using the address to initiate a “political witchhunt” against her and the conservative opposition, citing the recent criminal indictment of Marshall. She stated that the prime minister was deplorable to link the Valkyrian security services’ failures to her leadership, arguing that she inherited police investigators and intelligence analysts who were there long before she came to power.
The response from the western side of Mount Kalkara was one of relief. Blisse Starke, the Supreme Voice of Hystaiga, called Bennett’s address a welcome step towards the healing of both central Cordilian states and for the capture of the perpetrators of these attacks.
From her office in Karelia, Starke said that the perpetrators succeeded in drawing Valkyria into a war with an innocent nation and “permanently scarring” an entire generation of Hystaigans and Valkyrians. The Supreme Voice went further to accuse Kaufman of being “naive” and “eager” to enter into a conflict with Hystaiga. Starke said, “Now, the hard work must begin to bring these people to justice.”
In related news…
- State of emergency: what this means for daily life inside Valkyria
- Svartedauden: who are the people who founded the militia
- Valkyrian National Police to open checkpoints throughout the nation