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At least 87 dead in Norway attacks

Suspect appears to have acted alone in bombing, camp shooting

By Nils Myklebost
Associated Press / July 23, 2011

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OSLO - A Norwegian dressed as a police officer fatally shot at least 80 people at an island retreat yesterday, in an attack that followed an explosion in nearby Oslo that killed seven and that police said was set off by the same suspect. It took investigators several hours to realize the full scope of the camp massacre.

The mass shootings are among the worst in history. With the blast outside the prime minister’s office, they formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 191 people.

Police initially said about 10 were killed at the forested camp on the island of Utoya, but some survivors said they thought the toll was much higher. Police director Oystein Maeland told reporters early today they had discovered many more victims.

“It’s taken time to search the area. What we know now is that we can say that there are at least 80 killed at Utoya,’’ Maeland said. “It goes without saying that this gives dimensions to this incident that are exceptional.’’

Maeland said the death toll could rise. He said others were severely injured, but police did not know how many were hurt.

A suspect in the shootings and the Oslo explosion was arrested. Though police did not release his name, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK identified him as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik and said police searched his Oslo apartment overnight. NRK and other Norwegian media posted pictures of the blond, blue-eyed Norwegian.

A police official said the suspect appears to have acted alone in both attacks, and that “it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all.’’ The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that information had not been officially released by Norway’s police.

Police said the suspect is a right-winger with anti-Muslim views, but they did not know whether that was a factor in the attacks.

National police chief Sveinung Sponheim told NRK that the suspect’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.’’

Though the motive was unclear, both attacks were in areas connected to the ruling Labor Party government. The youth camp, about 20 miles northwest of Oslo, is organized by the party’s youth wing, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg had been scheduled to speak there today.

A 15-year-old camper named Elise said she heard gunshots, but then saw a police officer and thought she was safe. Then he started shooting people right before her eyes.

“I saw many dead people,’’ said Elise, whose father didn’t want her to disclose her last name. “He first shot people on the island. Afterward he started shooting people in the water.’’

Elise said she hid behind the same rock that the killer was standing on. “I could hear his breathing from the top of the rock,’’ she said.

She said it was impossible to say how many minutes passed while she was waiting for him to stop.

At a hotel in the village of Sundvollen, where survivors of the shooting were taken, 21-year-old Dana Berzingi wore pants stained with blood. He said the fake police officer ordered people to come closer, then pulled weapons and ammunition from a bag and started shooting.

Several victims “had pretended as if they were dead to survive,’’ Berzingi said. But after shooting the victims with one gun, the gunman shot them again in the head with a shotgun, he said.

“I lost several friends,’’ said Berzingi, who used the cellphone of one of those friends to call police.

The blast in Oslo, Norway’s capital and the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, left a square covered in twisted metal, shattered glass and documents expelled from surrounding buildings. Most of the windows in the 20-floor high-rise where the prime minister and his administration work were shattered. Other buildings that were damaged house government offices and the headquarters of some of Norway’s leading newspapers.

The dust-fogged scene after the blast reminded one visitor from New York of Sept. 11, 2001.

Ian Dutton, who was in a nearby hotel, said people “just covered in rubble’’ were walking through “a fog of debris.’’

“It wasn’t any sort of a panic,’’ he said, “It was really just people in disbelief and shock, especially in a such as safe and open country as Norway. You don’t even think something like that is possible.’’

Police said the Oslo explosion was caused by “one or more’’ bombs.

The police official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the camp shootings began one to two hours after the Oslo bombing occurred. The official said that the gunman used both automatic weapons and handguns and that there was at least one unexploded device at the youth camp, which a police bomb disposal team and military experts had worked on disarming.

The suspect had only a minor criminal record, the official said.

Sponheim, the national police chief, said seven people were killed by the blast in downtown Oslo, four of whom have been identified, and that nine or 10 people were seriously injured.

Sponheim said the suspect had been observed in Oslo before the explosion there.

Sponheim said the camp shooter “wore a sweater with a police sign on it. I can confirm that he wasn’t a police employee and never has been.’’

Aerial images broadcast by Norway’s TV2 showed members of a SWAT team dressed in black arriving at the island in boats and running up the dock. Behind them, people who stripped down to their underwear swam away from the island toward shore, some using flotation devices.

Sponheim said police were still trying to get an overview of the camp shooting and could not say whether there was more than one shooter. He would not give any details about the identity or nationality of the suspect, who was being interrogated by police.

Oslo University Hospital said 12 people were admitted for treatment following the shooting, and 11 people were taken there from the explosion in Oslo. The hospital asked people to donate blood.

Stoltenberg, who was home when the blast occurred and was not harmed, visited injured people at the hospital late yesterday. Earlier he decried what he called “a cowardly attack on young innocent civilians.’’

“I have message to those who attacked us,’’ he said. “It’s a message from all of Norway: You will not destroy our democracy and our commitment to a better world.’’

NRK showed video in Oslo of a blackened car lying on its side amid the debris.

An Associated Press reporter who was in the office of Norwegian news agency NTB said the building shook from the blast, and all employees were evacuated.

Down in the street, he saw one person with a bleeding leg being led away from the area.

An AP reporter headed to Utoya was turned away by police before reaching the lake that surrounds the island, as eight ambulances with sirens blaring entered the area. Police blocked off roads leading to the lake.

The United States, European Union, NATO, and the UK all quickly condemned the bombing, which Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague called “horrific’’ and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen deemed a “heinous act.’’

“It’s a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring,’’ President Obama said.

Obama extended his condolences to Norway’s people and offered US assistance with the investigation. He said he remembered how warmly Norwegians treated him in Oslo when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

Nobel Peace Prize Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said it appeared the camp attack “was intended to hurt young citizens who actively engage in our democratic and political society. But we must not be intimidated. We need to work for freedom and democracy every day.’’

A US counterterrorism official said the United States knew of no links to terrorist groups and early indications were the attack was domestic.

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