UPDATED: Norway ‘s worst catastrophe since World War II continued to deepen during the night, when the director of the state police announced that at least 86 persons were killed in a massacre at the Labour Party’s annual summer camp. State police director Øystein Mæland also warned that more bodies could be discovered at the site, and some campers remained missing.
“We still don’t have a final overview over the number of injured,” Mæland told reporters at a press conference around 3am Saturday, around 10 hours after a gunman dressed in a police uniform opened fire on campers on the island of Utøya northwest of Oslo. By Sunday mid-day, as many as 25 of the more than 600 campers on the island remained unaccounted for.
The critically injured are being treated at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo. A long list of others injured are spread over other local hospitals.
Mæland added that the situation “affects all of us. This is an incident of catastrophic proportions.”
The state police director was clearly shaken by the high death toll, which comes in addition to the seven persons confirmed dead so far in the bombing that occurred in downtown Oslo before the massacre on Utøya.
“There has never been a situation like this in Norway before,” he said. “This is a very dark day for Norway. This is something we have no experience with.”
Survivors of Friday’s terror on Utøya told gripping tales of how campers approached suspected gunman Anders Behring Breivik, thinking he came from the police as a safety measure after the bombing in the Oslo, only to experience that he shot them in cold blood. One young man told newspaper VG that he saw a girl shot in the head. Others ran for their lives, seeking refuge behind rocks or trees as the gunman continued his shooting spree around the small island in the Tyri Fjord.
Breivik, arrested by police and charged with the shootings, was described as a 32-year-old member of the Free Masons and a right-wing extremist who hates Muslims. It remained unclear what he thought he could accomplish by gunning down Norwegian teenagers at the Labour Party’s summer camp, but some speculated the shootings were politically motivated. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the gunman reportedly used both a rifle, a hand weapon and an automatic weapon. Police also found explosives on the island that hadn’t been detonated.
Breivik had been observed in downtown Oslo just before a powerful bomb exploded in the heart of the government complex, killing at least seven others, injuring several more and causing widespread damage to government ministries and surrounding property. Police quickly linked the two incidents.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who has spent every summer on Utøya since the early 1970s, was informed of the skyrocketing death toll, up from 10 a few hours earlier, and said he was deeply saddened and shaken. The AUF summer camp attracts some of the brightest and most ambitious members of the Labour Party’s next generation, so the massacre means a huge loss to the party’s future. Crisis teams including psychologists and the Red Cross were set up to help survivors and the families of the dead.
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