At Least 92 Dead After Norway Explosion, Shooting Rampage
July 23, 2011
Norway is slowly coming to terms with the fact that the twin shooting and bomb attacks there on July 22 have killed at least 92 people.
According to the latest figures, 85 people were shot dead by the lone gunman who attacked a youth camp on the tiny island of Utoeya just hours after another seven people were killed in an explosion in downtown Oslo. Police suspect the same man of carrying out both attacks.
Norwegian media have named the suspect as Anders Behring Breivik, but police have refused to confirm his identity.
Witnesses to the attack on the island say that the gunman was disguised as a police officer who called them together as if to speak to them. He then opened fire.
"There was a shooter at our campsite," said Hana Barzingi and Kavitiraa Aravinthan, speaking simultaneously to reporters. "He looked like a police officer, he had all the clothes and the gun and everything, but the police in Norway don't use guns, so it was terrifying. We were gathered in the beginning and he came and started to shoot and we all thought it was a joke [at first]."
Police officials say the arrested man, a 32-year-old Norwegian, is now cooperating with their investigation and wants to explain his motives for the killings.
"He is clear on the point that he wants to explain himself," police official Roger Andresen told reporters.
Another police official told AP privately that "it appears like this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all." The official added that "it seems it's not Islamic-terror related...This seems like a madman's work."
Police have also said that website links on the man's home computer indicate he is a "Christian fundamentalist" with right-wing leanings.
A Twitter account that has been attributed to the suspect contained only one post from July 17. It is a quote from the philosopher John Stuart Mill: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests."
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference in Oslo on July 23 that there are right-wing groups in the country.
"Compared to other countries, I will not say that we have a big problem with right-wing extremists in Norway, but we have had some groups," he said. "We have followed them before, and our police is aware that there are some right-wing extreme groups or at least have been some of that kind in Norway."
But Stoltenberg maintained that it is up to the police to establish how much of a link the suspect had to such groups and whether that was part of his reason for the attacks on July 22.
Local media have reported that police are also investigating uncorroborated claims by witnesses that a second person was involved in the shootings.
Meanwhile, a farm supply company has said it sold six tonnes of fertilizer to Mr Breivik who is reported to have run an agricultural business. There has been much speculation that fertilizer could have been used in the Oslo blasts.
One Of The Worst Shootings In History
Later on July 23, Stoltenberg went to meet victims and relatives of the Utoeya shootings with Norway's King Harald, Queen Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon in the town of Sundvollen near the island. Afterwards, he said he was "deeply touched" by the meetings and pledged that his government "would do whatever we can to give them as much support as possible."
Stoltenberg also revealed that he had been due to appear on Utoeya just a few hours after the attack took place.
The mass shooting in Norwary is among the worst in history. With the blast outside the prime minister's office, the events on July 22 formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 191.
Chaos In Oslo
In the aftermath of the attacks, Norwegian army troops took up positions around central Oslo and police urged people to stay out of the city center. Bomb experts also scoured the island where the shooting occurred to look for any explosives, as hundreds were being evacuated.
Acting Oslo Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim later told reporters that undetonated explosives had been found on the island.
The epicenter of the explosion in the capital was a high-rise office building that housed the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his administration.
Video of the scene broadcast on Norwegian television 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.
Other buildings damaged house government offices and the headquarters of some of Norway's leading newspapers.
Stoltenberg was working at home at the time of the blast, around 3:30 p.m. local time, and was not injured.
At a press conference hours later, the prime minister vowed to bring the perpetrator of the attacks to justice without commenting on potential motives.
“Nobody is going to bomb us into silence,” he said.
"The answer to violence is more democracy, more humanity, but not more naivete.”
Shortly after the explosion, Oslo police said it was caused by "one or more" bombs.
As smoke from the explosion billowed over the street, people evacuated office buildings with shattered windows. Some needed assistance to walk and others had bloody head wounds. Broadcast video showed crowds running down the street through a twisted debris field.
Public broadcaster NRK showed video of a blackened car lying on its side amid the wreckage.
A witness to the Oslo explosion told AP that he was standing at a bus stop about 100 meters from the building that contained the prime minister's office when the attack occurred.
"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," said U.S. tourist Nick Soubiea, who described what happened to CNN.
"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."
The offices of Norway's largest newspaper, "Verdens Gang," were also damaged in the blast. At one point, police sealed off the offices of broadcaster TV 2 after discovering a suspicious package.
In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman condemned the attack as "despicable" and President Barack Obama said the United States was standing by to provide support to Norway.
"I wanted to personally extend my condolences to the people of Norway, and it's a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring, and that we have to work cooperatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks," Obama said.
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev described what happened in Norway as a "monstrous" event "for which there can be no justification."
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron expressed outrage over the attacks in Norway, and promised that Britain would help in overcoming the "evil" behind them. Queen Elizabeth said she was "deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic loss of life of so many people" and extended her "heartfelt sympathy" to the people of Norway.
The European Union, the United Nations, and NATO all condemned the attack, with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen calling it "heinous act" and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying he was "shocked" at the events that occurred.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also expressed his "utmost shock" and said an attack of this magnitude was not "something one would expect in Norway, famously associated with peace at home and peacemaking abroad."
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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