July 23, 2011


[“We are not sure whether he was alone or had help,” a police official, Roger Andresen, said at a televised news conference. “What we know is that he is right-wing and a Christian fundamentalist.” So far Mr. Breivik has not been linked to any anti-jihadist groups, he said.On Saturday, King Harald and Queen Sonja met with survivors of the camp shooting and their family members at a hotel outside Oslo. ]

By Elisa Mala And J. David Goodman

Rescue workers evacuate young people from the summer school
meeting organised by the ruling Labour Party on Utoeya,
an island outside the capital, on Saturday. Getty Image
OSLO — The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 92 people dead.

The police said they did not know if the man, identified by the Norwegian media as Anders Behring Breivik, was part of a larger conspiracy. He is being questioned under the country’s terrorism laws, the police said, and is cooperating with the investigation of the attacks, the deadliest on Norwegian soil since World War II.

Some witnesses to the shooting on the island raised the possibility of a second gunman, but police could not confirmed the reports. Still, they did not rule out the possibility.

“We are not sure whether he was alone or had help,” a police official, Roger Andresen, said at a televised news conference. “What we know is that he is right-wing and a Christian fundamentalist.” So far Mr. Breivik has not been linked to any anti-jihadist groups, he said.On Saturday, King Harald and Queen Sonja met with survivors of the camp shooting and their family members at a hotel outside Oslo.

The prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who also met with survivors on Saturday, would not speculate on a motive for the attacks.

“Compared to other countries I wouldn’t say we have a big problem with right-wing extremists in Norway,” Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters at a news conference. “But we have had some groups, we have followed them before, and our police is aware that there are some right-wing groups.”

As details of the shooting continued to unfold, soldiers arrived in Oslo on Saturday to secure government buildings. The explosions here, from one or more bombs, turned the tidy Scandinavian capital into a scene reminiscent of terrorist attacks in Baghdad or Oklahoma City, panicking people and blowing out the windows of government buildings, including one that housed the office of the prime minister.

Even as the police locked down a large area of the city after the blast, the suspect, dressed as a police officer, entered the youth camp on the island of Utoya, about 19 miles northwest of Oslo, a Norwegian security official said, and opened fire. “He said it was a routine check in connection with the terror attack in Oslo,” one witness told VG Nett, the Web site of a national newspaper.

The police said the suspect had used “a machine pistol” in the attack, but declined to provide additional details.

At least 85 people, some as young as 16, were killed on the island, the police said Saturday on national television. The death toll could rise as they continue to search for bodies in the waters around the island.

In a news conference on Saturday, the Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, confirmed that former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland had made a speech on Utoya hours before the shooting.

Adrian Pracon, who had been working in an information booth on the island, told the BBC that almost everyone on Utoya — about 700 people — had gathered after reports of the Oslo bombing.

It was at that point, Mr. Pracon told the BBC, that a man in a police uniform arrived on the island and opened fire on the group.

“People were falling dead right in front of me,” Mr. Pracon said. “I ran through the campus to the tent area. I saw the gunman — two people started to talk to him and two seconds later they were both shot.”

He described the gunman as “sure, calm and controlled.”

“He screamed at us that we would all die,” Mr. Pracon said.

Terrified youths jumped into the water and “started to swim in a panic, and Utoya is far from the mainland,” said Bjorn Jarle Roberg-Larsen, a Labor Party member who spoke by phone with teenagers on the island, which has no bridge to the mainland. “Others are hiding. Those I spoke with don’t want to talk more. They’re scared to death.”

Many could not flee in time.

“He first shot people on the island,” a 15-year-old camper named Elise told The Associated Press. “Afterward he started shooting people in the water.”

Mr. Pracon said he also jumped into the water, but realized he could not reach the mainland and turned back.

“I saw him standing 10 meters from me, shooting at the people who were swimming,” he told the BBC. “He aimed his machine gun at me and I screamed at him, ‘No please no, don’t do it.’ I don’t know if he listened to me but he spared me.”

Mr. Pracon said he was huddled freezing in the cold rain with a number of other people, when the gunman returned later.

“The shooting started again and people were falling on top of me, on my legs and falling into the water,” he said, according to the BBC, “that’s when many people died. I just had to shield myself behind them, praying he wouldn’t see me.”

The gunman came so close that Mr. Pracon said he could feel the man’s breath and the warmth of the gun barrel, “But I didn’t move and that’s what saved my life,” he told the BBC.

Mr. Breivik was captured “by the emergency forces,” police officials said Saturday, but declined to provide further detail about the circumstances of his capture.

“As for right now, one man has been apprehended, and that’s all I can say,” Mr. Andresen said. The acting police chief, Sveinung Sponheim, said the suspect’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.”

He said the suspect had been seen in Oslo before the explosions. The police and other authorities declined to say what the suspect’s motivations might have been, but many speculated that the target was Mr. Stoltenberg’s liberal government.

The police said they also recovered explosives on the island.

Mr. Breivik had registered a farm-related business in Rena, in eastern Norway, which the authorities said allowed him to order a large quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, an ingredient that can be used to make explosives.

Reuters quoted a spokeswoman from a farm supply chain as saying that the suspect had purchased six metric tons of fertilizer in May. “These are goods that were delivered on May 4,” Oddny Estenstad, a spokeswoman at agricultural supply chain Felleskjoepet Agri, told Reuters, without giving the exact type of fertilizer purchased.

Authorities were investigating whether the chemical may have been used to make the bombs.

A Facebook page matching his name and the photo given out by the police was set up just a few days ago. It listed his religion as Christian and his politics as conservative. It said he enjoys hunting, the video games World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2, and books including Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and George Orwell’s “1984.”

There was also a Twitter account apparently belonging to Mr. Breivik. It had one item, posted last Sunday: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”

The attacks bewildered a nation better known for its active diplomacy and peacekeeping missions than as a target for extremists.

In Oslo, office workers and civil servants said that at least two blasts, which ripped through the cluster of modern office buildings around the central Einar Gerhardsen plaza, echoed across the city in quick succession around 3:20 p.m. local time. Giant clouds of light-colored smoke rose hundreds of feet as a fire burned in one of the damaged structures, a six-story office building that houses the oil ministry.

The force of the explosions blew out nearly every window in the 17-story office building across the street from the oil ministry, and the streets on each side were strewn with glass and debris. The police combed through the debris in search of clues.

Mr. Stoltenberg’s office is on the 16th floor in a towering rectangular block whose facade and lower floors were damaged. The justice ministry also has its offices in the building.

Norwegian authorities said they believed that a number of tourists were in the central district at the time of the explosion, and that the toll would surely have been higher if not for the fact that many Norwegians were on vacation and many more had left their offices early for the weekend.

“Luckily, it’s very empty,” said Stale Sandberg, who works in a government agency a few blocks down the street from the prime minister’s office.

After the explosions, the city filled with an unfamiliar sense of vulnerability. “We heard two loud bangs and then we saw this yellow smoke coming from the government buildings,” said Jeppe Bucher, 18, who works on a ferry boat less than a mile from the bomb site. “There was construction around there, so we thought it was a building being torn down.”

He added, “Of course I’m scared, because Norway is such a neutral country.”

For some Norwegians on Saturday, the scale of the attacks, and the fact that they appeared to have been carried out by one of their own, seemed particularly hard to grasp.

“It is difficult to think this is coming from inside our country, not outside,” said Thorbjorn Jagland, a Norwegian who is secretary general of the Council of Europe. “This is something surprising for all of us.”

“This is something that is not possible to understand at all,” he told BBC radio.

Elisa Mala reported from Oslo, and J. David Goodman from New York. Reporting was contributed by Souad Mekhennet, Ravi Somaiya and Matthew Saltmarsh from London; David Jolly and Katrin Bennhold from Paris; Christina Anderson contributed from Stockholm; and Eric Schmitt from Washington.