OSLO, Norway – A Norwegian who dressed as a police officer to gun down summer campers killed at least 80 people at an island retreat, horrified police said early today. It took investigators several hours to begin to realize the full scope of Friday’s massacre, which followed an explosion in nearby Oslo that killed seven and that police say was set off by the same suspect.
The mass shootings are among the worst in history. With the blast outside the prime minister’s office, they formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 191.
Police initially said about 10 were killed at the forested camp on the island of Utoya, but police director Oystein Maeland told reporters early today they had discovered many more victims.
“It’s taken time to search the area. What we know now is that we can say that there are at least 80 killed at Utoya,” he said.
Maeland said the death toll could rise even more. He said others were severely injured, but police didn’t know how many were hurt.
A suspect has been arrested. Though police did not release his name, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK identified him as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik and said police searched his Oslo apartment overnight. NRK and other Norwegian media posted pictures of the blond, blue-eyed Norwegian.
National police chief Sveinung Sponheim told NRK that the suspected gunman’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but whether that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.”
A police official said the suspect appears to have acted alone in both attacks, and that “it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that information had not been officially released by Norway’s police.
“It seems it’s not Islamic-terror related,” the official said. “This seems like a madman’s work.”
The official said the attack “is probably more Norway’s Oklahoma City than it is Norway’s World Trade Center.” Domestic terrorists carried out the 1995 attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City, while foreign terrorists were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The motive was unknown, but both attacks were in areas connected to the ruling Labor Party government. The youth camp, about 20 miles northwest of Oslo, is organized by the party’s youth wing, and the prime minister had been scheduled to speak there today.
A 15-year-old camper named Elise said she heard gunshots, but then saw a police officer and thought she was safe. Then he started shooting people right before her eyes.
“I saw many dead people,” said Elise, whose father didn’t want her to disclose her last name. “He first shot people on the island. Afterward he started shooting people in the water.”
Elise said she hid behind the same rock that the killer was standing on. “I could hear his breathing from the top of the rock,” she said.
She said it was impossible to say how many minutes passed while she was waiting for him to stop.
At a hotel in the village of Sundvollen, where survivors of the shooting were taken, 21-year-old Dana Berzingi wore pants stained with blood. He said the fake police officer ordered people to come closer, then pulled weapons and ammunition from a bag and started shooting.
Several victims “had pretended as if they were dead to survive,” but after shooting the victims with one gun, the gunman shot them again in the head with a shotgun, he said.
The blast in Oslo, Norway’s capital and the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, left a square covered in twisted metal, shattered glass and documents expelled from surrounding buildings. Most of the windows in the 20-floor high-rise where Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his administration work were shattered. Other damaged buildings house government offices and the headquarters of some of Norway’s leading newspapers.
Police said the Oslo explosion was caused by “one or more” bombs.
The police official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Oslo bombing occurred at 3:26 p.m. local time, and the camp shootings began one to two hours later. The official said the gunman used both automatic weapons and handguns, and that there was at least one unexploded device at the youth camp that a police bomb disposal team and military experts were working on disarming.
The suspect had only a minor criminal record, the official said.
Sponheim said seven people were killed by the blast in downtown Oslo, and that nine or 10 people were seriously injured.
Sponheim said the camp shooter “wore a sweater with a police sign on it. I can confirm that he wasn’t a police employee and never has been.”
Aerial images broadcast by Norway’s TV2 showed members of a SWAT team dressed in black arriving at the island in boats and running up the dock. Behind them, people who stripped down to their underwear swam away from the island toward shore, some using flotation devices.
Sponheim said police were still trying to get an overview of the camp shooting and could not say whether there was more than one shooter.
Oslo University Hospital said 12 people were admitted for treatment following the Utoya shooting, and 11 people were taken there from the explosion in Oslo.
Stoltenberg, who was home when the blast occurred and was not harmed, visited injured people at the hospital late Friday. Earlier he decried what he called “a cowardly attack on young innocent civilians.”
“I have message to those who attacked us,” he said. “It’s a message from all of Norway: You will not destroy our democracy and our commitment to a better world.”
The United States, European Union, NATO and the U.K., all quickly condemned the bombing, which Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague called “horrific” and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen deemed a “heinous act.”
“It’s a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring,” President Barack Obama said.
At least two Islamic extremist groups had tried to take credit for the attacks. Many intelligence analysts said they had never heard of Helpers of Global Jihad, which took initial credit. The Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam also took credit on some jihadist websites.