Norwegian shooting spree kills 87 as 7 die in Oslo bombing

Shooting spree at Norwegian youth camp kills at least 87 just hours after a suspected car bombing kills 7, wounds scores in Oslo's downtown government district.

Oslo shooting 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Oslo shooting 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)

OSLO - A gunman dressed in police uniform opened fire at a youth camp of Norway's ruling political party on Friday, killing at least 87 people, hours after a bomb killed seven in the government district in the capital Oslo.

Witnesses said the gunman, identified by police as a32-year-old Norwegian, moved across the small, wooded Utoeyaholiday island firing at random as young people scattered infear. Norwegian television TV2 said the gunman detained bypolice was described as tall and blond and had links toright-wing extremism.RELATED:Near simultaneous blasts kill at least 21 in India's Mumbai Sinai gas pipeline hit for fourth time this year

"He has given some information that is interesting for theinvestigation, some details that can take us further," saidSponheim, adding the suspect's motives were not clear at themoment.

The attack was the biggest in Western Europe since the 2004Madrid train bombings that killed 191.

"I've seen it with my own eyes, at least 20 dead people lying in the water," Andre Skeie, 26, told Reuters by telephone. He said he had gone to Utoeya island with his boat to help people evacuate the island after the shooting.Police said they arrested a suspect in the shooting attack and said they believed there was a connection between the two attacks.The Oslo bomb blew out the windows of the prime minister's building, damaged the finance and oil ministries and scattered glass and masonry across the streets.A Reuters witness said he had seen soldiers taking up positions around the center of the capital, while police said they feared there might be explosives at the youth camp.
With police advising people to evacuate central Oslo, apparently in fear of more attacks, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told Norwegian TV2 television in a phone call that the situation was "very serious". He said that police had told him not to say where he was speaking from."It exploded -- it must have been a bomb. People ran in panic...I counted at least 10 injured people," said bystander Kjersti Vedun, who was leaving the area of the blast in Oslo.Shortly after the bomb, a gunman described by a police official as tall and blond opened fire at the island of Utoeya north-west of Oslo, sending people scattering in terror. The target was a youth camp of Stoltenberg's Labor party youth section."There was a lot of shooting...We hid under a bed. It was very terrifying," a young woman present at the island youth camp told British Sky television. She said police helicopters were flying overhead.Daily newspaper VG said on its website the gunman had been dressed as a policeman.NATO member Norway has been the target of threats before over its involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya.The attack came just over a year after three men were arrested on suspicion of having links to al-Qaida and planning to attack targets in Norway. It came also less than three months after US forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his hideout in Pakistan.Violence or the threat of it has already come to the other Nordic states: a botched bomb attack took place in the Swedish capital Stockholm last December and the bomber was killed.Denmark has received repeated threats after a newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in late 2005, angering Muslims worldwide.The Oslo blast tore at the facade of the 17-story central government building, blowing out most of the windows and scattering shards of metal and other debris for hundreds of meters (yards).
The building of a publisher which recently put out a translation of a Danish book on the Mohammad cartoon controversy was also affected, but was apparently not the target.The blast scattered debris across the streets and shook the entire city centre at around 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT). A Reuters witness saw eight people injured, one covered in a sheet and apparently dead.'Most violent event in Norway since WWII'Madrid suffered an Islamist militant bomb attack on commuter trains in 2004 that killed 191 people. Four suicide bombers killed 52 people in an attack on London's transport system in 2005.The Reuters correspondent said the streets had been fairly quiet in mid-afternoon on a Friday in high summer, when many Oslo residents take vacation or leave for weekend breaks."This is a terror attack. It is the most violent event to strike Norway since World War Two," said Geir Bekkevold, an opposition parliamentarian for the Christian Peoples Party.
The district attacked is the very heart of power in Norway, with several other key administration buildings nearby.Nearby ministries were also hit by the blast, including the oil ministry, which was on fire. Nevertheless, security is not tight given the lack of violence in the past.The failed December attack in Stockholm was by a Muslim man who grew up in Sweden but said he had been angered by Sweden's involvement in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan and the Prophet Mohammad cartoons.
That attack was followed weeks later by the arrest in Denmark of five men for allegedly planning to attack the newspaper which first ran the Mohammad cartoons.
In July 2010, Norwegian police arrested three men for an alleged plot to organize at least one attack on Norwegian targets and said they were linked to individuals investigated in the United States and Britain.
John Drake, senior risk consultant at London-based consultancy AKE, said: "It may not be too dissimilar to the terrorist attack in Stockholm in December which saw a car bomb and secondary explosion shortly after in the downtown area.
"That attack was later claimed as a reprisal for Sweden's contribution to the efforts in Afghanistan."
Political violence is virtually unknown in a country known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and mediating in conflicts, including in the Middle East and Sri Lanka.