Death toll climbs as man charged with mass killing
The death toll in Friday's attacks in Norway reached 92 on Saturday, as police charged a suspect in connection with the shooting rampage and the earlier explosion that targeted government buildings in downtown Oslo.
The Norwegian police charged a 32-year-old man with killing 85 people in Friday’s shooting spree at a summer camp at an island northwest of Oslo.
The suspect, who was identified by the Norwegian media as Anders Behring Breivik, is believed to have carried out the mass shooting at the Labour Party youth camp on Utoeya island, while disguised as a police officer. Police believe he is also linked to the powerful explosions that rocked the downtown area of the capital a few hours earlier, killing seven.
Breivik was described in the media as a Christian fundamentalist with connections to the far right. Police authorities, who have yet to confirm the suspect’s name, reportedly revealed that he had posted anti-Islamic rhetoric on online forums, but said it was too early to determine if this was a possible motive for the act. Initial reports claimed the attacks were the work of Islamic jihadist groups.
Since the attacks, Felleskjoepet Agri, an agricultural supply chain, has told Reuters that Breivik had purchased six tonnes of fertiliser in May. Although the company did not specify the type of fertiliser ordered, certain kinds can be used for explosives.
Shooting turned paradise into hell
Sverre Rorvik Nilsen, who had been walking his dog in Oslo just moments before one or more bombs exploded in the city’s government centre, told FRANCE 24, “Suddenly the world just shook, and a 25 metre smoke cloud shot out of the bottom three floors of the building housing the prime minister and it just devastated every surrounding building”.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg also visited Utoeya
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, a clearly emotional Stoltenberg called the incident a national tragedy.
“I remember Utoeya as a paradise in my youth. On Friday, it turned into hell”, he said.
Many of those fleeing the shooting on the island were between the ages of 14-19 years old, one eyewitness told Reuters news agency.
Rescue personnel have been scouring the water around the island with underwater cameras in search of shooting victims who sought to flee from the gunman.
The bloodshed has been described as Europe’s worst mass killing since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which left 191 people dead and injured more than a thousand others.
A country in ‘shock’
In the wake of the carnage, Norwegians are struggling to understand the scale and reasons behind such an attack.
“Most of the nation is in shock. It’s an open society traditionally, which has been attacked by, for the moment, just one person. I think now, as we have seen in other shooting tragedies in the world, people are just trying to come to terms with it”, said Michael Sandelson, a correspondent for the GRN news agency reporting for FRANCE 24 from Norway.
Sandelson went on to say that although Norway’s government kept tabs on right-wing extremist groups, they didn’t perceive that they posed a national threat.
“The Minister of Justice and the Police, Knut Storberget, has said that they have been following extremist groups – there is in fact a small neo-nazi party here as well – but they haven’t regarded it as a threat”, he said.
According to Sandelson, Stoltenberg has asked that flags be flown at half-mast on Saturday to mark the tragic event.