Thursday 22 February 2018

'How day of horror unfolded'

Adrian Blomfield, Gordon Rayner and Martin Evans

Norway's worst terrorist outrage was signalled by a double explosion that shook the centre of Oslo in the middle of the afternoon. Within three hours it had become clear that the blasts were just the beginning of what was to become one of the nation's darkest days.

As police and emergency workers concentrated on the devastation in the capital, a gunman disguised as a policeman was making his way to a tiny, undefended island on a nearby lake intent on killing students at a Labour Party summer camp.

By Friday night, more than 30 people were feared dead and dozens more were being treated for injuries.

The carnage began at 2.26pm GMT (3.26pm local time) when a large car bomb, left outside Oslo's main government building, exploded with devastating effect, shattering almost every window in the 17-storey block in Youngstorget, one of the city's main squares.

Several people are thought to have been killed by the force of the blast, with many others injured and possibly killed as glass rained down on pedestrians who had been thrown to the ground.

Anne Marte Blindheim, a journalist, described the scene as "like a war zone".


"It does not look like something you see in Norway. The entire high-rise building and all windows are completely destroyed. There is blood and papers everywhere and smashed cars."

Government workers suspected the attack was aimed at Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose office in the targeted building was badly damaged in the blast. He was working elsewhere at the time and quickly issued a statement confirming he was unharmed.

Police issued an order via radio and TV stations for people to evacuate the city centre.

Emergency workers were told not to enter buildings to look for survivors for fear of further blasts, even though some of the injured had used their mobiles to plead for help.

Briton Craig Barnes, said: "Oslo is a city but it's a small town compared to the UK. You're looking at probably the centre of Blackpool, that's what Oslo is. Everybody would have felt that bomb or heard it. That's how powerful it was."

Norwegians watching the unfolding drama on TV could not understand why they had become targets. One woman who called a local television station said: "We're Norway. We're the good guys."

The only small mercy was that the attack happened at the height of Norway's holiday season and the streets were far quieter than they would normally be.

As the emergency services seemed to be getting a grip on the situation, police began receiving reports of shots being fired on Utoya, a tiny holiday island on the Tyrifjorden lake 15 miles west of Oslo.


A gunman, dressed as a policeman, had taken a boat to where 560 members of the Labour Youth movement, aged between 15 and 25, were holding a summer camp.

"The person identified himself as a policeman," said one witness. "He said it was for a routine check regarding the terrorist attack in Oslo."

Blond, more than six feet tall and speaking fluent Norwegian, the "policeman" did not raise any suspicions as he arrived on Utoya -- but moments leader screams filled the air as he opened fire with an automatic weapon.

Some students jumped into the icy water, taking their chances in strong currents swirling around the island, in a desperate attempt to escape.

One father told a Norwegian newspaper: "I just spoke to my daughter on Utoya on the phone. She just screamed. She says one person is shot, while one of her friends has the back covered in blood."

One message on Facebook read: "There is shooting on Utoya. DO NOT call anyone there. They are hiding in the bushes. Police on their way."

With no hope of help arriving quickly, the gunman could take his time to pick off his targets.

One youth tweeted: "We are sitting down by the beach. A man is shooting clothed in a police uniform. Help us! When are the police coming to help us?!"

A police special weapons and tactics team finally landed on the island and took the killer alive. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Timeline: how the Norway terror attacks unfolded

Here is a timeline of the terror attacks in Norway:

Friday July 22:

1430: A loud explosion shatters windows and leads to evacuations of office buildings near the government headquarters in Oslo city centre. The buildings include the office of prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, who is soon confirmed to be safe, as he was working at home.

1545: There are reports that at least one person has been killed in the explosion.

1615: It is confirmed that the explosion was caused by a bomb.

1645: It is confirmed that there are injuries in addition to the death and some people are trapped at the bomb site.

1700: Police confirm two people are dead and 15 injured.

1745: Police say they are sending anti-terror police to a youth camp on an island outside Oslo after reports of a shooting there. The news site VG reports that a man dressed in a police uniform has opened fire at the camp at Utoya, and several people are injured.

1815: Norway Labour Party spokesman Per Gunnar Dahl says a man has been shooting at youths assembled for the party's annual youth camp at Utoya. Unconfirmed reports are that five people were hit. He says around 700 people, mostly teenagers aged 14 to 18, were assembled for the camp.

1835: It is reported that one person has been arrested after the youth camp shooting.

1845: Britain condemns the "horrific" bomb blast. Foreign Secretary William Hague says the UK stands "shoulder to shoulder" with Norway following the attack.

1850: Police say they suspect the two incidents in Norway are linked.

1900: It is confirmed that seven people died in the bomb blast.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen calls the blast a "heinous act".

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, expresses his "utmost shock" over the blast. He says an attack of this magnitude was not "something one would expect in Norway, famously associated with peace at home and peacemaking abroad".

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke Fulton calls the violence "despicable".

1920: US President Barack Obama says the bombing is a reminder that the world has a role in stopping such terror from happening.

1945: An eyewitness to the shootings says he saw more than 20 bodies.

Mr Stoltenberg says: "Co-workers have lost their lives today... it's frightening. That's not how we want things in our country. But it's important that we don't let ourselves be scared. Because the purpose of that kind of violence is to create fear."

2035: Prime Minister David Cameron says he was "outraged" to hear about the two attacks. He says: "My thoughts are with the wounded and those who have lost friends and family, and I know everyone in Britain will feel the same."

2050: Police say the man arrested after the shooting is linked to the bombing in Oslo. It emerges that Mr Stoltenberg had been due to speak at the summer camp on Saturday.

2055: Police say that nine or 10 people were killed in the shooting.

2150: Norway's justice minister says the gunman is Norwegian.

2340: Police say the attacks do not appear to be linked to Islamist terrorism, saying they were more Norway's "Oklahoma City" than "World Trade Centre".

Saturday July 23:

0040: It emerges that bomb disposal teams are searching for unexploded devices on Utoya. A police source says there is at least one device at the camp which is being disarmed. The gunman is named in reports as Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, 32.

The suspect is said to have acted alone, with no links to international terrorist organisations.

0250: At least 80 people were killed in the shooting, police say.

0450: Police say the suspect had right-wing and anti-Muslim views, but the motive for the attacks was unclear. They warn the death toll from the shootings could rise, and others are severely injured. "This seems like a madman's work," an official says.

0850: The suspect posted on websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies, police say. The man is co-operating with police and wants to explain himself, they add.

The death toll from the shooting stands at 84 and with the bombing it is 91.

1015: Buckingham Palace says the Queen has written to the King of Norway to express her shock and sadness at the attacks in his country. She said her thoughts, and those of the Duke of Edinburgh, were with the Norwegian people.

Irish Independent

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