Norway: At Least Ninety-One Killed by Terrorist

News yesterday of the attacks in Norway started with an assumption that only a few people had been killed. At first, at 3.36 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT currently runs six hours’ earlier than Eastern Time – which would have been 9.46 am EST), it was suggested that a blast had taken place in Oslo, Norway’s capital. An explosion – which later turned out to be caused by a car bomb – had taken place near government buildings in the center of the city. Initial suppositions were that prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, head of the Labor Party, had been caught in the blast. Later it became clear he had been away from his office.
Just over an hour later, it was claimed that one person had died in the blast, and then that rose to two. At 6.10 pm, it was becoming clear that 15 people had been injured. At that time (5.10 British Summer Time) I was entering a pub with friends to have a meal. The television screens in the public house were showing a BBC channel. This displayed continuous footage of the devastation in the city, with subtitles proclaiming that two were dead and fifteen were injured. As we ate our meal and I consulted my laptop computer to get more information, Reuters was reporting that anti-terrorist police were being sent to the island of Utoya, just south of Oslo, to deal with a reported shooting at a youth gathering.
From such beginnings, the casualty toll began to take on a grim and escalating life of its own. The Guardian newspaper’s online edition carried a story (later changed) that suggested the attacks were possibly the work of Islamists. At midnight GMT, or 6 pm Eastern Time, I was preparing to do an internet radio show. At that time, the news was declaring that far more people had died at the island of Utoya. The reports were claiming that at least five people had died in the Oslo bombing, but the total of deaths had risen to at least thirty.
It was claimed that a man had been apprehended at the island. He had been dressed as a policeman, and he had been shooting at young people on the island. At the time, young people aged from teen years to mid twenties were on the island, attending a rally for the governing Labor party. The island had only one large building on it. Most of the young people had been staying in tents on the island. The gunman was said to have been blond and Norwegian born, and it was being intimated on the BBC that he had been seen at the scene of the car bombing in Oslo two hours before the blast. The blast and the shooting had happened at the same time.
On the internet show, I discussed the recent history of Islamism in Norway, but still believed that the killer may have been a convert to Islamism. Near the end of the two hour show, more information had been released. The gunman had been named as 32-year-old Norwegian man called Anders Breivik.
He had a Facebook account, subsequently taken down, and a Twitter account. This ominously bore a single Tweet which declared: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.”
Anders Breivik, as depicted on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
At daybreak today (Saturday, July 23rd) the news from Norway was declaring that the death toll was in excess of eighty people, with seven killed at the scene of the Oslo car bomb, and the remainder being the mostly young victims on Utoya island. An hour later, the statistics had been revised. The number who had died on the island had reached 84, and the total had hit 91.
Stories were emerging of how the gunman had attacked the young people on the island, with many of these trying to swim to safety (the island is three quarters of a mile from the shore). The assailant had shot at victims in the water. Some had lain down among the dead, hoping that they would not be noticed, but the killer went around the bodies on the ground, systematically shooting each one in the head with a shotgun. One can only imagine the terror and panic for young unarmed people to be caught up in such a situation for which they could have had no preparation.
The politics of the killer are currently being discussed. He is said to have been a neo-Nazi, who opposed the Labor government and apparently hated multiculturalism and Islamism, but at such an early point it is unwise to make too many observations until conclusive proof arrives.
Breivik has been most recently described as a “Christian fundamentalist,” by the police who have interviewed him in custody. Last night, it was reported that Breivik was a Freemason (a picture of him in his Freemasonry garb can be seen here). He has also been seen as a person whose views are “far right” and obvious comparisons have been made with Timothy McVeigh who used a massive ammonium nitrate bomb to attack the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma in 1995. As I observed on my show, there is a world of difference between laying a bomb, an impersonal act where the killer is detached from his victims, and taking a gun aiming directly at one’s victims and then killing them.
Currently, there is nothing to be gained from speculation, and more facts will almost certainly emerge over the next few days which would make speculation more relevant and less subjective.
What is known is that the attacks are almost certainly the work of one person, who seems (though this is not conclusively proved) to have acted alone, and who has committed the worst attack on Norwegian soil since the Second World War.
As more concrete facts emerge, we will report on them here. We naturally extend our sympathies to the families of the dead and the injured.

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