Friday, July 22, 2011

87 dead in mass shooting, bombing in Norway

OSLO: Twin shooting and bomb attacks left at least 87 dead as a Norwegian gunman disguised as a policeman opened fire at a youth camp and a bomb blast tore through government buildings in downtown Oslo.

"We have confirmation that at least 80 people are dead. We do not exclude a higher toll," said police spokesman Are Frykholm speaking of the shooting spree a summer school meeting of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's ruling Labour Party on Utoeya, an island outside the capital.

Police had earlier confirmed that seven people were killed as a powerful bomb ripped through central Oslo -- where the prime minister's office and several government buildings are located -- and nine were critically injured.

A 32-year-old Norwegian was arrested after the shooting spree. According to the TV2 channel, he has links to right-wing extremists and possessed two weapons registered in his name.

Stoltenberg said the culprits would not intimidate one of Europe's most peaceful countries.

"People have lived through a nightmare that very few of us can imagine," he said. "The coming days will show who is responsible and what kind of punishment they will get.

"The message to whoever attacked us, the message from all of Norway is that you will not destroy us, you will not destroy our democracy and our ideals for a better world."

The United States and European leaders immediately denounced the attacks and vowed solidarity with NATO member Norway -- an enthusiastic participant in international military missions that has forces in Afghanistan and is participating in Western air strikes in Libya.

Stoltenberg had been due to give a speech on Saturday to the 560 people attending the youth camp on the island.

Witnesses described scenes of panic and horror after the gunman, who police said was disguised as a police officer but never worked for the police force, opened fire on the youth gathering.

Today, free government was attacked, freedom of association was attacked, the spirit of youth was attacked. But we will kick back and say that these are values that are dear to us, and we intend to defend them and Norway will be recognizable tomorrow as the Norway our friends and partners around the world have known so far."
Oslo Mayor Stang said it was a "terrible day" for Norwegians.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was not in his office at the time of the blast and was not hurt, officials said.
Afterward, he had a message to whoever may have been responsible: "You won't destroy us," he said. "You won't destroy our democracy. We are a small but proud nation. No one can bomb us to silence. No one can scare us from being Norway. This evening and tonight, we'll take care of each other. That's what we do best when attacked."
Nick Soubiea, an American-Swedish tourist in Oslo, said he was fewer than 100 yards from the blast, which he described as deafening. "It was almost in slow motion, like a big wave that almost knocked us off our chairs," he told CNN. "It was extremely frightening."
Several buildings in Oslo were on fire, smoke billowing from them, he said.
One explosion appeared to have occurred on an upper floor of a main government building; every window on the side of the building had been blown out.
The blast also damaged the Oil Ministry, which caught fire.
In brief remarks to reporters from the Oval Office, U.S. President Barack Obama extended his condolences to the victims of the violence in Norway, saying the incidents are "a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring."
Heide Bronke, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said Washington was monitoring the situation but did not have any word of U.S. casualties.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also condemned the attacks.
"We condemn all acts of terrorism," he said. "The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Norway and all our international allies in the face of such atrocities."
British Ambassador to Norway, Jane Owen, told CNN she was working in the embassy when she felt the blast three miles away. "The whole building shook here in the embassy," she said. "It was quite a sizeable explosion and a huge shock. ... The results demonstrate that it was a very large bomb."
She added, "As we have all experienced, you can never be totally prepared for the horror and the tragedy that unfolds when you do have a major terrorist incident and that is, unfortunately, what the people of Oslo and Norway are now having to cope with."
Stoltenberg, who has been prime minister since October 2005, heads a coalition government comprising the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party.

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