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At Least Two Killed In Blast At Norway Government Headquarters

July 22, 2011

A huge explosion in the Norwegian capital of Oslo has killed at least two people and damaged several government buildings, including one containing the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Norwegian police said the blast was caused by "one or more bombs," but declined to speculate who was behind the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg, who was not in the building at the time of the blast, later told Norwegian public television that the attack was a "very serious situation," but added that it was too early to say if the explosion was a terrorist attack.

He said all cabinet ministers seemed to be safe, but said that police had advised him not to say where he was speaking from.

Reports from the scene described the tangled wreckage of a car outside one of the damaged buildings, resembling the aftermath of car bomb.

The explosion occurred at around 3:30 p.m. local time and heavily damaged a building that houses the prime minister's offices, and the oil and finance ministries, as well as neighboring structures.

A press officer at Oslo University Hospital told Reuters that seven injured people had arrived for treatment. The extent of their injuries was not known.

Witness Ole Tommy Pedersen told AP that he was standing at a bus stop about 100 meters from the 20-story government building that contained the prime minister's office. He described seeing almost all the windows shattering and smoke billowing out of the bottom floors.

An American tourist named Nick Soubiea was nearby when the explosion hit.

"We were about 50 meters from where the explosion happened, and it was pretty unreal, it was like slow motion, it was just a big wave that almost knocked us off our chairs," he told CNN. "And there was just a big black smoke in the air. And everybody just stood still and had no idea what was going on, and it was extremely frightening."

Norway's Largest Newspaper Also Affected

Video of the scene broadcast on NRK showed most of the windows of the building had been blown out. The bottom floor appeared to be completely gutted. Shattered glass and debris littered a square in front of the building.

The offices of Norway's largest newspaper, "Verdens Gang," were also damaged in the blast.

The paper was one of several European publications that a few years ago reprinted cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad after a Danish newspaper was targeted with threats for doing so.

Authorities in neighboring Denmark say they have foiled several terror plots linked to the 2005 publication of the cartoons, which triggered protests in Muslim countries.

Last week, a Norwegian prosecutor filed terror charges against an Iraqi-born cleric for threatening Norwegian politicians with death if he is deported from the country.

Mullah Krekar, who founded the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, made the statements to several media outlets, including America's NBC television network.

The Scandinavian country has also worked to contain several home-grown terror plots linked to Al-Qaeda.

Norway has around 600 troops serving in Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and is also participating in the NATO mission to drive Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi from power.

compiled from agency reports


Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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