After great speculation that Norway had been hit by terrorist attacks on Friday, police confirmed that the suspect they arrested is a 32-year-old ethnic Norwegian. It remained unclear late Friday night whether he was acting alone, or had ties to a terrorist organization. Speculation was rising that he’s linked to right-wing extremists, not Islamic terrorists.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget confirmed that police were holding a suspect, charged with gunning down many members of the Labour Party’s youth organization AUF (Arbeidernes ungdomsfylking) who were attending their annual youth summer camp on an island in the Tyri Fjord.
Neither Storberget nor police, however, would reveal more details about the suspect. They would not identify him nor say whether he had a criminal record, although the website for newspaper VG identified him as Anders Behring Breivik, age 32, a self-described nationalist with no criminal record who was opposed to Islam and to a multi-cultural society. VG and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that police were raiding the suspect’s home in west Oslo Friday night.
Police did say, though, that the suspect had been spotted in downtown Oslo just before a massive bomb exploded at 3:26pm on Friday, and they have linked him to that explosion as well as the massacre. They did not say how he was spotted, but there are numerous surveillance cameras around the government complex’s area (called Regjeringskvartalet) where the bomb went off.
Sveinung Sponheim, acting chief of police Oslo, told reporters late Friday night that police still had no motive for either the bombing or the shootings at the summer camp on the island of Utøya. Sponheim said he was not sure how the man got from downtown to the island nor do they have a motive for the shootings. He said, however, that the suspect had indicated he was willing to undergo questioning by the police.
Professor Tore Bjørgo of Oslo’s police academy said the suspect could be tied to right-wing extremists with a grudge against the left-wing Labour Party.
Death toll due to rise
Police confirmed that 10 people were killed during the shooting. More than 600 AUF members were at the camp on Friday and many had assembled for an information session on the bombing in Oslo. The suspect reportedly arrived on the island dressed in a police uniform, and then started shooting.
Witnesses described a horrific situation of seeing fellow campers, many of them teenagers, gunned down before their eyes along the waterfront. Others ran for shelter and tried to hide behind rocks and trees. Still others made a desperate attempt to flee by swimming in the fjord’s chilly waters to the mainland, but some of them were reportedly shot as they tried to swim away.
One witness has described seeing as many as 30 bodies in the water, but police would not confirm the number. Sponheim said, however, that they had reason to believe the death toll from Utøya would rise during the night. He said investigators found explosives on the island that had not been detonated, and indicated that more bodies were being discovered as well.
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