Norway's 'National Tragedy' Over 90 Dead in Twin Attacks
The death toll in the twin attacks in Norway is much higher than was first thought. According to police, at least 84 people died in the shooting on the island on Utoya, and seven in the bombing in Oslo. A 32-year-old Norwegian man has been charged in connection to the two attacks.
One day after the twin attacks that shocked Norway and appalled the world, authorities in the Scandinavian country are searching for answers. Police have charged a 32-year-old Norwegian man identified as Anders Behring B. over the two attacks, which left at least 91 people dead. The suspect's motives are still unclear, however.
Police said on Saturday morning that at least 84 people were killed in Friday's shooting on the island of Utoya, one of the worst mass shootings in recent history. There, a man disguised as a policeman opened fire on young people taking part in a summer camp organized by the youth wing of the ruling center-left Labor Party. Just hours earlier, seven people had been killed in a bomb attack on Oslo's government quarter.
Authorities think that B., who was described as tall and blond, was acting alone, but are currently investigating to see if he had accomplices. The Norwegian news agency NTB reported on Saturday that police were looking into witnesses' statements that two men were involved in the Utoya shooting. The second man was not disguised as a police officer, the agency reported.
The suspected perpetrator Anders Behring B., who was arrested on Friday after the hour-long shooting spree, is apparently a Christian with right-wing extremist and anti-Islamic views, but was not an active member of Norway's neo-Nazi scene. Police searched B.'s Oslo appartment during the night.
Police were questioning the suspect on Saturday. B. has apparently said he is willing to explain his actions.
According to media reports, the suspect set up a farm business in 2009. The news agency Reuters reported Saturday that B. had bought 6 tons of fertilizer, an ingredient that can be used for making bombs, in May. The order was placed through B.'s company, the supplier told Reuters.
On Saturday, police detained a man carrying a knife outside a hotel where Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was visiting young people who had survived the attack on the island. The Associated Press reported that the man was a member of the Labor Party's youth wing and was carrying a knife because he felt unsafe. Members of Norway's royal family, including the king and queen, also met with victims' families on Saturday.
Panic and Chaos
Investigators believe that B. set off the bomb in the government quarter around 3:20 p.m. local time, before heading for the island of Utoya, which is about an hour's drive away. There, he opened fire on young people taking part in a political camp organized by the governing center-left Labor Party. Around 600 people, mostly teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17, were thought to be taking part in the camp.
Eyewitnesses reported horrifying scenes of violence on the island. "There was a lot of shooting," a young woman at the camp told British television station Sky. "We hid under a bed. It was very terrifying."
Survivors told Norwegian television of panic and chaos on the island. Many of the teenagers jumped into the water in an attempt to swim to the shore, about 600 meters (2,000 feet) away. The perpetrator also opened fire on the young people in the water. According to media reports, B. was armed with an automatic weapon, a shotgun and a handgun.
Eyewitness Anders Pracon was one of those who was shot at in the water. "He aimed his machine gun at me," Pracon told the BBC from hospital. "I screamed at him, 'No please no, don't do it'. I don't know if he listened to me but he spared me." Pracon said he was hit in the back by a bullet during another round of shooting about an hour later, but survived by playing dead. "I didn't move and that's what saved my life."
'The Boat Was Full'
Some of the young people were pulled from the water by people on boats. "After I had taken on 10, the boat was full," rescuer Torill Hansen, who went to save people with her motor boat, told the radio station NRK. "It was so terrible when I had to turn away the 11th and 12th persons."
Survivors reported that the young people had been told to assemble in a central location at the camp to be informed about the bombing in Oslo. One 16-year-old girl told the newspaper Aftenposten that a man in police uniform had come and told them that he wanted to gather them all together, before he opened fire.
The Norwegian news agency NTB reported that the police had found further explosives when they arrested the man. The television station TV2 reported that two guns were registered in the suspect's name.
The island of Utoya belongs to the AUF, the Labor Party's youth wing, which holds a summer camp on the island each year. The leader of the young group, Eskil Pedersen, responded to the attacks with defiance. "We will not give up in the struggle for what we believe in," he said. "We will come back to Utoya."
The suspect's motives remain unclear. There is speculation that he may have targeted the youth camp because it had a "multicultural" focus, as participants reported. The suspected perpetrator had apparently criticized multiculturalism in Norway in statements on the Internet.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who had been due to visit the youth camp on Saturday, described the attacks as a "national tragedy" and called on his nation to stand together. "Never since the Second World War has our country been hit by a crime on this scale," he told a news conference in Oslo. He said that nobody could "shoot Norway into silence," and that the country would continue to uphold its values. Norwegian King Harald V called on Norwegians to "stand together in this difficult situation and support each other."
On Saturday morning, police director Oystein Mæland struggled to maintain his composure as he announced the scale of the massacre on television. He said it was a "black day" for Norway and that the country had never experienced anything like it. "We must stand together and look out for each other," said Justice Minister Knut Storberget.
Several government buildings were damaged in Friday's explosion in central Oslo, which killed seven people and injured at least 15. The explosion, which was heard for kilometers around, blasted windows out of buildings in the city's government quarter. Prime Minister Stoltenberg was not, however, in his office in the government building when the explosion happened.
Images from the scene showed streets full of debris from the explosion, buildings with all their windows blown out and clouds of smoke hanging over the city center. The Oil and Energy Ministry and the office of Norway's largest tabloid newspaper, VG, were also badly damaged.
World leaders condemned the violence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "appalled" when she heard about the attack in Oslo. "All of us who believe in democracy and peaceful coexistence must strongly condemn such terrorism, whatever its motives," she said in a statement on Friday. German President Christian Wulff told the Norwegian king that "Germany and the Germans stand firmly at your side in this difficult hour."
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said he was "deeply shocked" by "these acts of cowardice," while US President Barack Obama also expressed his condolences to Norway. "It's a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring," Obama said.
dgs -- with wire reports