At least 87 dead in Norway shooting, bomb attack

OSLO, (Reuters) – A gunman dressed in police uniform  opened fire at a youth camp of Norway’s ruling political party  yesterday, killing at least 80 people, hours after a bomb killed  seven in the government district in the capital Oslo.

Suspect: Anders Behring

“The updated knowledge we are sitting on now is at least  80,” police chief Oystein Maeland told a news conference.

“We can’t guarantee that won’t increase somewhat,” he said.

Witnesses said the gunman, identified by police as a  32-year-old Norwegian, moved across the small, wooded Utoeya  holiday island firing at random as young people scattered in  fear. Norwegian television TV2 said the gunman, described as  tall and blond, had links to right-wing extremism.

It was the biggest attack in Western Europe since the 2004  Madrid train bombings that killed 191.

“I just saw people jumping into the water, about 50 people  swimming towards the shore. People were crying, shaking, they  were terrified,” said Anita Lien, 42, who lives by Tyrifjord  lake, a few hundred metres (yards) from Utoeya island, northwest  of Oslo.

“They were so young, between 14 and 19 years old.”

Many sought shelter in buildings as shots echoed across the  island, ran into the woods or tried to swim to safety. Boats  searched for survivors into the night, searchlights sweeping the  coast. Helicopters flew overhead.

Survivor Jorgen Benone, who was on the island at the time,  said: “I saw people being shot. I tried to sit as quietly as  possible. I was hiding behind some stones. I saw him once, just  20, 30 metres away from me. I thought ‘I’m terrified for my  life’, I thought of all the people I love.”

Police seized the gunman, who they  believed was also linked  to the bombing, and later found undetonated explosives on the  island, a pine-clad strip of land about 500 metres long, to the  northwest of Oslo.

Smoke billows from a building as people stand looking at the site of a powerful explosion that rocked central Oslo July 22, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Winje Oijord/Scanpix

The bomb, which shook the city centre in mid-afternoon, blew  out the windows of the prime minister’s building and damaged the  finance and oil ministry buildings. Stoltenberg was not in the  building at the time.

“People ran in panic,” said bystander Kjersti Vedun.

With police advising people to evacuate central Oslo, and  some soldiers taking up positions on the streets, the usually  sleepy capital was gripped by fear of fresh attacks. Streets  were strewn with shattered masonry, glass and twisted steel.

“It is the most violent event to strike Norway since World  War Two,” said Geir Bekkevold, an opposition parliamentarian for  the Christian Peoples Party.

“I have a message to the one who attacked us and those who  were behind this,” Prime Minister Stoltenberg said in a  televised news conference. “No one will bomb us to silence, no  one will shoot us to silence.”

He declined to speculate on who had been involved.

      OKLAHOMA BOMBING     

NUPI Senior Research Fellow Jakub Godzimirski said he  suspected a right-winger, rather than any Islamist group. Right  wing groups have grown up in Norway and elsewhere in northern  Europe around the issue of immigration.

“It would be very odd for Islamists to have a local  political angle. The attack on the Labour youth meeting suggests  it’s something else. If Islamists wanted to attack, they could  have set off a bomb in a nearby shopping mall rather than a  remote island.”

Right-wing militancy has generated sporadic attacks in other  countries, including the United States. In 1995, 168 people were  killed when Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb at a federal  building in Oklahoma City.

Deputy Oslo police chief Sveining Sponheim told reporters  that the gunman in the Utoeya shootings had been disguised in a  blue police-style uniform but had never been a police officer.

Police searched a flat in west Oslo where the man lived, and  evacuated some neighbours.

NATO member Norway has been the target of threats before  over its involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya.

Violence or the threat of it has already come to the other  Nordic states: a botched bomb attack took place in the Swedish  capital Stockholm last December and the bomber was killed.

Denmark has received repeated threats after a newspaper  published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in late 2005,  angering Muslims worldwide.

In Oslo, the building of a publisher which recently put out  a translation of a Danish book on the cartoon controversy was  also affected, but was apparently not the target.

The Oslo district attacked is the very heart of power in  Norway. Nevertheless, security is not tight in a country unused  to such violence and better known for awarding the Nobel Peace  Prize and mediating in conflicts, including the Middle East and  Sri Lanka.

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