Norway was the victim of two dead attacks on Friday afternoon: a powerful explosions shook the government center in the capital and, shortly after that, at Utoya, an island outside Oslo, a gunman stalked youths on an island summer camp for children of members of the governing Labor Party. Police were treating the assaults, which together killed at least 16 people, as connected, though it remained unclear who was behind them.
The explosion in downtown Oslo also injures more than a dozen and causes widespread damage. Outside the Norway capital, a gunman in a police uniform opens fire at a youth camp, killing nine or 10. Officials think the attacks are related.
The explosions, presumably from one or more bombs, turned the ordinarily placid Scandinavian capital into a scene reminiscent of terror attacks in Beirut or Baghdad or Oklahoma City, blowing out windows of several government buildings, including one housing the office of the Norwegian prime minister, who was unharmed. The state television broadcaster, citing the police, said seven people were killed and at least 15 injured in the explosions.
Jon Magnus, the chief foreign correspondent of Oslo’s VG newspaper, was sitting at his desk finishing a comment article when the bomb’s blast wave blew him off his chair. “It was 3.26 in the afternoon,” he said. “Suddenly the whole building was shaking. It was like it was dancing. There was glass flying through the newsroom. “I was on the far side of the building from where the prime minister’s office is. The entire glass front of our building was blown out.”
Another witness, Ole Tommy Pedersen, was standing at a bus stop 100 metres from the government high-rise when the explosion occurred. “I saw three or four injured people being carried out of the building a few minutes later,” he told the Associated Press.
Even as police locked down a large area of the city, a man dressed as a police officer entered the camp on the island of Utoya, about 25 miles northwest of Oslo, a Norwegian security official said, and opened fire. â€śThe situationâ€™s gone from bad to worse,â€ť said Runar Kvernen, spokesman for the National Police Directorate under the Ministry of Justice and Police, adding that most of the children at the camp were 15 and 16 years old.
Oslo police said that 9 or 10 people were killed at the camp, according to The Associated Press.Â Labour spokesman Per Gunnar Dahl said that nearly 700 people, mostly teenagers between 14 and 18, were assembled for the camp. “This is a terror attack. It is the most violent event to strike Norway since world war two,” said a shocked Geir Bekkevold, an opposition parliamentarian for the Christian Peoples party.
A suspect was eventually apprehended and was being questuioned by police on Friday. The acting chief of police, Sveinung Sponheim, said the suspect had been seen in Oslo before the explosions there, but they stressed that the investigation was just beginning and that they could not yet say whether the attacks were terrorism-related.
Conflicting reports centered on one group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or the Helpers of the Global Jihad. According to Will McCants, a terrorism analyst at C.N.A., a research institute, the group issued a statement claiming responsibility, saying the attack was a response to the presence of Norwegian forces in Afghanistan and to unspecified insults to the Prophet Muhammad.
But Norwegian television reports later suggested that the group had denied responsibility. In the immediate aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, jihadi forums are often filled with claims and counterclaims that are impossible to independently confirm.
Norway is a member of the NATO alliance and has a small fighting contingent in Afghanistan. It was one of several countries named by Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, as potential targets for attack. In 2006, Norwegian newspapers reprinted Danish cartoons that angered Muslims by lampooning Muhammad.
Norway has also historically been a frequent participant in peacekeeping missions and a host for diplomatic talks, including the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of the Norwegian Parliament.
Muslim leaders in Norway swiftly condemned the attacks. â€śThis is our homeland, this is my homeland; I condemn these attacks and the Islamic Council of Norway condemns these attacks, whoever is behind them,â€ť said Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway.