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Friday, July 22, 2011

Police: Utoya shooter was local man

UPDATE 5:22 p.m.: Police say the gunman is a Norwegian.

Witnesses described the suspect as "blond" and "Nordic-looking." Late Friday, Knut Storberegt, Norway's royal minister of justice and the police, confirmed that he is a Norwegian; the BBC, citing police, said he was from Utoya. Police said he is also believed to have been involved in the bombing that killed seven people earlier in the day in Oslo, about 25 miles away.

Magnus Ranstorp, a specialist in militant Islamic movements and research director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College, cautioned that widespread assumptions that the attacks were connected to international terrorism could be wrong.

The description of the suspect and his possible involvement in bombing national government offices "point to an internal rather than external extremist," Ranstorp told Nettavisen.

"Intuitively, the bombing is al-Qaida-related, but with this attack on Utoya, this could just be a crazy person," Ranstorp said.

UPDATE 4:07 p.m. ET: Oslo police say that with the gunman in custody, Utoya island is now safe.

Inspector Bjorn Erik Sem-Jacobsen of the Buskerud police district told state broadcaster NRK that the investigation was difficult because witnesses and others who were on the island when the gunman opened fire had good reason to be suspicious of anyone in a police uniform.
"We are working to ensure that the young people out there have confidence that we are real police," Sem-Jacobsen said.

UPDATE 3:50 p.m. ET: Police said they could confirm only nine deaths in the shooting at Utoya. A police spokesman said a 10th person might may have been killed, but that was "uncertain."

Previous reports quoted multiple witnesses as saying as many as 20 people may have been killed.

Norwegian authorities said at a news conference that the gunman was not connected to the police and "has no relation to us."

UPDATE 3:35 p.m. ET: Police said they were confident they had been able to identify the gunman, whom they had in custody. They did not release his identity, but they said they had confirmed that they had "reason to believe" he was connected to the Oslo bombing.

NRK reporter Astrid Randen quoted witnesses as saying the man — described as "tall, blond and Nordic-looking" and speaking Norwegian — wore a police uniform and summoned youth campers to gather around him before he "just executed them."

People in at least 20 pleasure boats converged on the island to help with the rescue operation. One of them, André Skeie, told NRK that he saw at least a dozen "lifeless bodies" floating in the water.

Skeie said he helped remove more than 15 injured people from the island. Many of them were shot in the stomach, he said.

"It's absolutely awful. It looks like a war zone," Skeie said by phone.

UPDATE 3:12 p.m. ET: NRK is quoting witnesses as saying at least five and perhaps 20 or more people may have been killed at Utoya, some of them shot as they tried to swim to safety from the island. It stressed that police had not confirmed the accounts.

UPDATE 2:53 p.m. ET: NRK quotes police as saying they now suspect one or more bombs may be at the scene at Utoya.

UPDATE 2:51 p.m. ET: The Norwegian news agency NTB quotes witnesses describing a scene of "complete panic."

A witness said in a text message that "we are very afraid," the agency reported. "We do not know what to do. Many people are injured. We are afraid. We are waiting for help. Some are seriously injured. We cannot do anything."

Posted 2:45 p.m. ET: As speculation raged that the bombing of government buildings in Oslo, Norway, could be Islamist terrorism, a "tall, blond and Nordic-looking" man dressed as a police officer opened fire with a machine gun on a political youth conference 25 miles away, police and eyewitnesses said.

Police told NRK television that preliminary reports were least five people were injured in the shooting on the island of Utoya, which they said they believed was linked to the bombing earlier in the day.

NRK and other Norwegian media said the government had sent an anti-terrorism unit to evacuate the island, where the scene was described as chaotic. NRK reported that some terrified campers were trying to swim back to the mainland from the summer gathering, which was organized by the country's Labour Party.

"The situation's gone from bad to worse," said Runar Kvernen, a spokesman for the national police.

Oslo Explosion Shots Fired


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