Every update about the attacks that occurred yesterday in Oslo and a nearby island, Utoya, only seems more horrific. At least 85 people, mostly teenagers and many from political families, were shot while attending a youth camp for the ruling Labour party. The search for at least four victims is still going on, as many ran into the water and drowned while trying to flee from the gunman, who continued to fire at them in the water. Police are also still searching in central Oslo for victims in the wreckage of government and other buildings; at least 7 were killed when these were bombed on Friday afternoon.
As of Friday evening, police in Norway have charged a 32-year-old Norwegian man who is said to be a right-wing fundamentalist Christian. Norwegian media have given his name as as Anders Behring Breivik and he is described as a “religious, gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country,” according to the New York Times. It is not yet known if Breivik acted alone or if others were involved, say police who are currently questioning him under the country’s terrorism laws. Breivik is said to be cooperating with the investigation.
Police suspect that the bombing was a diversionary tactic. After it occurred, police put central Oslo on lockdown. Police said that there are still unexploded munitions in some downtown Oslo buildings and that they have also found undetonated explosives in a car found on Utoya. They are still searching to see if there are more explosives on the island.
[UPDATE, 9:15pm EST] The BBC reports that Breivik has admitted to the attacks and described his actions as “gruesome but necessary.” He is due to appear in court on Monday; according to his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, he had planned the attacks “for some while”:
Still pictures of him, wearing a wetsuit and carrying an automatic weapon, appeared in a 12-minute anti-Muslim video called Knights Templar 2083, which appeared briefly on YouTube.
A 1,500-page document written in English and said to be by Mr Breivik – posted under the pseudonym of Andrew Berwick -was also put online hours before the attacks, suggesting they had been years in the planning.
The document and the video repeatedly refer to the Knights Templar and to multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.
In the words of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Utoya was a “youth paradise” that has been transformed into a “hell.” Stoltenberg says that he had visited the island annually since 1974 and was scheduled to speak there a few hours after the attacks occurred. He and King Harald V and Queen Sonja visited Sundervoll, a town near Utoya, to meet with victims and families on Saturday. The attacks are the worst to happen on Norwegian soil since World War II and with them, says Stoltenberg, Norway has lost its innocence.
The Norwegian news site NRK contains frequent updates and photos about the twin attacks. The attack on Utoya went on for 90 minutes, with the gunman appearing dressed as a police around 5:30pm and summoning those on the island — some 700 — to him. Witnesses recount that those who walked towards him were shot and that the gunman shot those already on the ground a second time, to make sure they were dead. Police arrived on the island — there is no bridge between it and Oslo — after 40 minutes and Breivik surrendered when they called to him. A timeline of the twin attacks can be found on the Guardian.
Lisa Marie Husby from Orkdal was chased by the gunsman; she and several others found refuge in a cabin, where they stayed for 2 1/2 hours, during which Breivik, who had an automatic rifle and a handgun, attempted to enter and fired his gun, but eventually left. A 15-year-old, Elise, also gives a terrifying eyewitness account; she describes hiding behind the same rock Breivik stood on and being able to hear him breathing.
The Norwegian flag was being flown at half-staff in commemoration of those killed and many Norwegians changed their Facebook profile photos to a Norwegian flag.
Under Norway’s liberal criminal sentencing policies, the gunman could be sentenced to only 21 years, which is the maximum sentence a criminal in Norway can receive, says the Guardian. Questions will also be asked about the liberal gun policies in Norway, a country where “shooting and hunting are major pastimes… and guns are easy to obtain.”
Photo by L.C.Nøttaasen
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