Friday, July 22, 2011

Oslo explosion kills at least 2

OSLO—A powerful explosion at the government headquarters in Norway's capital has left at least two dead and several injured, according to police officials.

The blast also damaged a number of buildings in central Oslo, including the finance ministry and the government headquarters, but the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, was unhurt, according to his spokesperson.

"The prime minister is safe and he is not hurt," said Camilla Ryste, an official in Mr. Stoltenberg's office. The situation is "chaotic," she added.

Oslo police officials said the explosion was caused by a bomb and that two people have been confirmed dead. Police Chief Thor Langli said during a press conference that the blast could have been caused by more than one device and that a car bomb could have been used, but that the police can't confirm other details yet. Mr. Langli also said Prime Minister Stoltenberg is safe and has been moved to a safe location.

"I was in no doubt that it was a bomb. The damage to the building structure was massive," said Sverre Rorvik Nilsen, a business reporter in Oslo, who witnessed the explosion.

The explosion occurred near Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's office, but Norwegian media said Stoltenberg was safe.

Video footage showed streets littered with shattered glass, documents and other debris as terrified people fled the scene to safety, heading away from Oslo's normally bustling downtown.

Nearly all the windows of one multistory building appeared to have been blown out. Another building was on fire. A huge plume of smoke rose into the sky.

Residents were stunned by the blast and the possibility that their placid country had become the victim of a large terrorist attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, but Norway has been singled out as a target by Al Qaeda.

Almost exactly a year ago, three foreign-born Norwegian residents suspected of being affiliated with Al Qaeda were arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack.

Last week, Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi-born cleric who lives in Norway, was charged with terrorism after allegedly threatening politicians with death if Norwegian authorities deport him. Krekar is the founder of the militant Kurdish Islamist group Ansar Al Islam.

In 2003, an audiotape by Ayman Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as leader of Al Qaeda after his death in May, urged militants to attack the U.S., Britain, Australia and Norway.

Many Norwegians were puzzled at the inclusion of their country on the list; explanations centered on Norway's participation in the war in Afghanistan.

Six years ago, many Muslims around the world and at home were angered when a Norwegian newspaper published cartoons from Denmark that protesters said insulted the prophet Muhammad.

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