A large explosion ripped through the administrative center of Oslo, Norway, blowing out the glass front of a 20 story building. The Norwegian Prime minister, who holds office in the vicinity was reported safe. Subsequent reports say the cause was a large car bomb. Just now there are reports that a man “dressed as a policeman” has opened fire with “a machine gun” at a youth camp in Utøya. Four or people have been shot and the victims are still running to evade the perp. Sea King helos with paramedics have been waved off because the landing zone is still hot. Unconfirmed reports say some of the kids have tried to swim away from the island in panic, which concerns the authorities as the place is a long way from the mainland.
The camp is operated by Norway’s Labor Party. There are now reports that as many as 25 children were killed on the island. “Eyewitness Andre Scheie told NRK: ‘There are very many dead by the shore… There are about 20-25 dead.’ Mr Scheie also said he saw people dead in the water at the camp.” And “An eyewitness has told the Norway national broadcaster NRK that he saw more than 20 bodies at the Labour Party youth camp in Utoeya.”
Labor spokesman Per Gunnar Dahl told the AP that a man dressed in a police uniform started shooting at youths assembled for the party’s annual youth camp at Utoya, an island outside Oslo. He said unconfirmed reports that five people were hit, and that “we don’t know how serious.” He said some 700 people, mostly teenagers between 14-18, were assembled for the camp.
The island is shown below. And the Daily Mail is now reporting that the 5 people downed are dead. “At least 12 people were killed – seven in Oslo and five on Utoya Island, 50 miles north of the capital – where the prime minister Jens Stoltenberg had been due to attend the youth Labour Party event. … Some people fled the attack by swimming away from the island and others locked themselves in buildings but reports emerged that explosives may have been set around the area.”
Meanwhile at the main bombing site in Oslo, at least one person has been reported killed, other reports say at least 2 have died and several others seriously wounded. This site contains photographs of the scene, including that of the deceased. ABC news is now quoting “US government sources” as saying the source of the blast was a massive VBIED — a car bomb.
After earlier speculation the blast could have been caused by a gas leak, Norwegian police now believe that the explosion was caused by a bomb. With human agency identified the next question will be who did it? No arrests or official accusations have yet been made, but Will Heaven, blogging in the Telegraph, cites three possible motives for an attack, all standard reasons for having incurred the wrath of al-Qaeda or a similar group. Others cite Norway’s attempts to deport an Islamic cleric, Mullah Krekar, who predicted dire consequences for Norwegian officialdom should they attempt to move against him. “Krekar’s defense attorney Brynjar Meling has tried to downplay Krekar’s remarks, saying they were merely a response to threats made against Krekar himself and in line with the teachings of the Koran.”
Some reports suggest vehicles bound for the Oslo airport are being searched, but whether that is to foil a possible second attack or head of fleeing suspects is yet unclear. But searches imply that the police have tentative intelligence or are acting on hunches. Some reports, quoting police sources, now say that there were not one but several blasts in Oslo and that the police were examining a number of suspicious packages that may be explosive devices.
The attacks on Norway are a demonstration of the effect of multi-modal, concentrated terror attacks can be on a small, vulnerable and complacent European nation. The basic scripts have all been developed. The car bomb; the Beslan attack; the Mumbai rampage. All that remained was to string them together in a combination and throw them at a single target. And that target, in this case was the Norwegian Prime Minister. The effect of these attacks would be like a Pearl Harbor in the North.