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Blasts and Gun Attack in Norway; 7 Dead

julio 22, 2011

OSLO — Powerful explosions shook central Oslo on Friday afternoon, blowing out the windows of several government buildings, including one housing the office of the Norwegian prime minister. The state television broadcaster, citing the police, said seven people were killed and at least 15 injured; a spokeswoman for the prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said he was “safe and not hurt.”

SCANPIX, via Associated Press

Deadly explosions shattered windows on Friday at the government headquarters in Oslo, which includes the prime minister’s office. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he was safe.

The New York Times

 

Readers’ Comments

“I have friends who are stationed on the youth camp. A friend says she’s hiding in a closet. Some of the teenagers have started swimming from the island. Right now I am so scared. Everything has changed in just a few hours. “

Sara, Oslo

Shortly after the explosions, which appeared to be a bomb attack, a man dressed as a police officer opened fire on a summer camp for young members of the governing Labor Party on the island of Utoya about 25 miles northwest of the city, and wounded at least five, a Norwegian security official said.

“The situation’s gone from bad to worse,” said Runar Kvernen, spokesman for the National Police Directorate under the Ministry of Justice and Police, adding that most of the children at the camp were 15 and 16 years old. There were initial reports that Mr. Stoltenberg was scheduled to attend a meeting at the camp.

As fear spread through the capital, the police moved to lock down a wide area of the city center, where the streets were already nearly deserted.

The attacks appeared to be part of a coordinated assault on the ordinarily peaceful Scandinavian nation, as images of the damaged government buildings called to mind past terror attacks in Beirut or Baghdad or Oklahoma City.

Though the police did not immediately connect the explosions with terrorism, the mangled wreckage of a car could be seen in front of the main government building, flipped on its side, damaged so badly that its make and color were not apparent, and a large area of sidewalk pavement was completely blown away. Reports in local media said that officials were assuming it was a deliberate bombing.

A terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or the Helpers of the Global Jihad, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, according to Will McCants, a terrorism analyst at C.N.A., a research institute that studies terrorism. The message said the attack was a response to Norwegian forces’ presence in Afghanistan and to unspecified insults to the Prophet Muhammad. “We have warned since the Stockholm raid of more operations,” the group said, according to Mr. McCants’ translation, apparently referring to a bombing in Sweden in December 2010. “What you see is only the beginning, and there is more to come.” The claim could not be confirmed.

Norway is a member of the NATO alliance and has a small fighting contingent in Afghanistan. It was one of several countries named by Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, as potential targets for attack. In 2006, Norwegian newspapers reprinted Danish cartoons that angered Muslims by lampooning Muhammad. Norway has also historically been a frequent participant in peacekeeping missions and a host for diplomatic talks, including the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of the Norwegian Parliament.

Muslim leaders in Norway swiftly condemned the attacks. “This is our homeland, this is my homeland; I condemn these attacks and the Islamic Council of Norway condemns these attacks, whoever is behind them,” said Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway.

Norwegian news media, citing the police, said the shooting suspect at the camp had been arrested.

Witnesses on the island told Norwegian television that the man identified himself as a police officer when he entered the camp. “He said it was a routine check in connection with the terror attack in Oslo,” one witness told VG Nett, the Web site of a national newspaper.

Bjorn Jarle Roberg-Larsen, a Labor Party member who had telephone contact with teenagers on the island, said: “Kids have started to swim in a panic, and Utoya is far from the mainland. Others are hiding. Those I spoke with don’t want to talk more. They’re scared to death.” The island is about one-third of a mile from shore at its closest point, and has no bridge to the mainland.

In Oslo, stunned office workers and civil servants in the vicinity of the bombed buildings said that at least two explosions were heard in quick succession, as the sound of the blasts echoed across the city. Giant clouds of light-colored smoke rose hundreds of feet into the air over the city as a fire burned in one of the damaged structures, a six-story office building that houses the oil ministry

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