Monday 18 December 2017

Oslo bloodbath

Norwegian man held as 30 feared dead in twin terrors

Nils Myklebost in Oslo

A home-grown terrorist set off a bomb that caused carnage in the heart of Norway's capital Oslo yesterday, then went to a summer camp dressed as a police officer and gunned down youths as they ran and even swam for their lives.

The attacks killed at least 17 people in the country's worst violence since World War II but it's feared the death toll could be more than 30.

A police official said a 32-year-old Norwegian suspect arrested at the camp on Utoeya island appeared to have acted alone in both attacks, and "it seems like this is not linked to any international terrorist organisations at all". The suspect was named locally as Anders Behring Reivik.

Police said seven people died in the Oslo blast, and another nine or 10 people were killed at the camp, which was organised by the youth wing of the ruling Labour Party.

The motive was unknown, but both attacks were in areas connected to the ruling Labour Party government. Rescuers were searching through the night for more victims of the bomb blast, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said police fear there could be more victims at the camp.

"It seems it's not Islamic-terror related," the police official said. "This seems like a madman's work."

The official said the attack "is probably more Norway's Oklahoma City than it is Norway's 9/11".

The official added, however, "it's still just hours since the incident happened. And the investigation is going on with all available resources."

At the youth camp, where the prime minister had been scheduled to speak today, a 15-year-old 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. "He first shot people on the island. Afterwards 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 it was impossible to say how many minutes passed while she was waiting for him to stop.

Elise said she believed she saw more than 10 people killed.

One of the youths at the camp, Niclas Tokerud, stayed in touch with his sister through the attack through text messages.

The shootings occurred after the bombing in Oslo, the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. At least one unexploded device was discovered at the youth camp where a police bomb disposal team was working on disarming it with support from military experts.

The Oslo blast left a square covered in twisted metal, shattered glass and documents expelled from surrounding buildings in a dust-fogged scene that reminded one visitor from New York of September 11.

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."

National police chief Sveinung Sponheim said a man was arrested in the shooting, and the suspect had been observed in Oslo before the explosion there.

Police did not immediately say how much time elapsed between the bombing at about 3.30pm and the attack at Utoeya, about 35km northwest, but reports of the shooting began appearing on Twitter about two and a half hours after the bombing.

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 said several people were injured but he could not comment on their conditions.

In Oslo, most of the windows in the 20-floor high-rise where Stoltenberg and his administration work were shattered. Other damaged buildings house some of Norway's leading newspapers.

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

Stoltenberg, who was at home when the blast occurred and was not harmed, visited injured people at the hospital late last night. He called it "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."

Sponheim would not give any details about the suspect, who was being interrogated by police. The attacks formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2005 London bombings, which killed 52.

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