Norway mourns as toll from twin attacks reaches 92

 

A suspected right-wing Christian gunman in police uniform killed at least 85 people in a ferocious attack on a youth summer camp of Norway's ruling Labour party yesteday just hours after a bomb killed seven in Oslo.

Witnesses said the gunman, identified by police as a 32-year-old Norwegian, moved across the small, wooded Utoeya holiday island yesterday firing at random as young people scattered in fear.

A police spokesman said at a press conference this evening that as many as 98 people may have been killed in the dual attack as a number of people are still missing.

Police detained the tall, blonde suspect, named by local media as Anders Behring Breivik, and charged him in connection with the island killing spree and the Oslo bomb blast.

“We are being tested, our nation is being tested, but we will stand firm,” said a grave King Harald in a television address this afternoon, condemning the “attacks on Norway’s heart”.

“Let’s stay strong in our belief that freedom is more important than fear. We will keep our belief that it is possible to live in a democratic, peaceful country.”

The heart of Norway’s democracy, its government quarter, was cordoned off after yesterday's powerful bomb blast.

The debris-filled streets looked more like a war zone than a European capital, ministries in once modern office block ministries now ragged facades with blind, shattered windows, blinds fluttering in the breeze.

In the afternoon drizzle, investigators struggled to recover body parts of at least seven civil servants believed to have been killed in the blast. Bomb disposal experts warned residents to stay away, saying they had found unexploded devices near the ministries.

At street level, solemn army officers wearing red berets, machine guns pointed at the ground, manned check-points.

Nearby, Oslo’s deputy police officer Roger Andresen confirmed that police were interrogating a suspect.

“We’re not sure it’s just one person, but based on statements from witnesses, we think there may be more,” he said, adding that bombs found on the island did not match those used in Oslo. “The suspect has been engaged in a dialogue with the police but it is difficult.”

The 32-year-old suspect was described in Norwegian media as a right-wing Christian with interests in bodybuilding and the freemasons. He was a fervent opponent of immigration and multiculturalism, a friend told a local tabloid, and became interested in right-wing extremism in his late 20s.

Police said they had made several important breakthroughs linking the suspect to the two events, including finding weapons and the car the suspect allegedly used to drive from Oslo after the blast to the Utoeya holiday island.

They are examining his computer and have sealed off a farm owned by the suspect, where they found large quantities of fertiliser believed to have been used to make the bombs.

Mr Andresen said the suspect offered no resistance when finally tackled by a black-clad swat team, over 90 minutes into his shooting spree.

“Police called him and when they did, he put down his weapons,” he said.

Responding to criticisms about the length of time it took them to reach the island, over 45 minutes, Mr Andresen saying police resources were stretched by the bomb blast in Oslo.

“We had problems with getting transport out to island and getting a boat to take us across,” said the deputy police chief.

As the coast guard combed the coast for survivors in the water, police said they would spend several days scouting the small wooded island for survivors.

King Harald, Queen Sonja and Crown Prince Haakon visited the island to meet survivors, members of the youth wing of the ruling Labour Party, accompanied by prime minister Jens Stoltenberg.

“We must show that those who try to scare us will not win,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

As the sun dipped on a perfect mid-summer evening, shocked Oslo residents came together in city’s churches to light candles and meditate on this blow at the heart of their open society.

“We need to face down this terror and violence with more democracy,” said Jonas (32). “It’s a shock that this came from the heart of our country, not a threat from outside.”