"Pro-Israeli" Norwegian suspect mass murderer reportedly hated Muslims
A 32-year-old Norwegian man who killed at least 92 people, most of them children, in Europe’s worst terrorist attack in seven years was reported Saturday to have a history of hatred of Muslims and of links with rightwing extremists and Christian fundamentalists.
Anders Behring Breivik was charged with shooting dead 85 people on a heavily wooded island near the capital of Oslo on Friday after first setting off a huge car bomb explosion that killed seven people in or around government offices. Most if not all of the dead on the island were believed to be teenagers attending a youth camp sponsored by the governing Labor Party. Police said the death toll was expected to rise as four or five young people were still unaccounted for. They fear the youngsters drowned while trying to swim away from the island in the panic that ensued when he opened fire.
Police said the gunman may have had an accomplice in the shootings on the island but that remained to be determined. Earlier, they had said they suspected he acted alone.
Weeping parents converged on the scene from all over Norway, many to find their children were among those killed. A 16-year-old boy who survived the carnage said the gunman was laughing in a mocking way as he continued cutting short young lives with deadly precision.
The death toll is the worst in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the work of Islamic terrorists, killed 191 people. Previously Oslo, known for the Nobel Peace Prize awards, had experienced no acts of terrorism.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference Saturday that the gunman had turned an island paradise into hell.
Late Saturday police gave the first details of how they arrested Mr. Breivik. They said when police called out his name, he put down his gun, surrendered and asked to be put in touch with a specific lawyer. They did not say how they knew his name.
Mr. Breivik’s Facebook page, blocked by police on Friday evening, indicated he had rightwing extremist links. Police said he also had visited fundamentalist Christian websites and posted messages there.
“He describes himself as a Christian, leaning toward rightwing Christianity, on his Facebook page,” Mr. Andresen said.
National Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim said the postings “suggest he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views.”
The Facebook page listed his interests as bodybuilding, conservative politics and Freemasonry. Norwegian media said he set up a Twitter account a few days ago and posted this single message on July 17: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”
The Norwegian newspaper VG quoted a friend as saying the gunman had become a rightwing extremist in his late 20s. It said he expressed strong nationalistic views in online debates and strongly opposed the idea that people of different cultural backgrounds could live alongside each other.
This appeared to suggest his hostility to the wave of Third World immigration that has occurred in Norway in recent years. Immigrants now account for 25 per cent of Oslo’s population, many of them from Pakistan and the Middle East.
But the targets of his anger were government officials and children associated with the governing Labor Party, not immigrants. The car bomb exploded near the office of the prime minister, who had planned to attend on Saturday the youth camp his party sponsored.
For many around the world, this recalled the case of an American rightwinger with a grudge against his government who carried out a similar atrocity. Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier, detonated a truck bomb at a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1985, killing 168 people including many children. He was later executed.
Further website entries showed Mr. Breivik criticized European policies of multiculturalism, and claimed 13 per cent of young British Muslims supported Al Qaeda ideology. One report said he was an admirer of Geert Wilders, a Dutch rightwing politician who has said he hates Islam.
In one entry posted several years ago, he said the “Islamization of Europe” could not be stopped without dealing with politicians responsible for letting it happen.
Mr. Breivik was a member of the Progress Party, which wants tighter restrictions on immigration, until five years ago. Party leader Siv Jensen said she was “very sad” that he had been a member and had never been very active.
Mr. Stoltenberg condemned what he called “bloody and cowardly attacks.”
“Many of those who lost their lives were persons I know,” he said at a news conference. “I know the young people and I know their parents.
“And what hurts more is that this place where I have been every summer since 1979, and where I have experienced joy, commitment and security, has been hit by brutal violence—a youth paradise has been transformed into a hell.”
He declined to speculate on motives for the attack but said: “Compared to other countries I wouldn’t say we have a big problem with rightwing extremists in Norway. But we have had some groups, we have followed them before, and our police are aware that there are some rightwing groups.”
He said everyone present on the island of Utoeya was damaged for life, including survivors. “Young people have experienced things every person should be spared—fear, blood and death.”
Later Mr. Stoltenberg went to Lake Trifjorden, where the island was located, to comfort survivors. Police there arrested a young man who was carrying a knife and was near the prime minister but it was not known if he played any part in the killings.
A BBC reporter said emotions were running high at the lake and many survivors were hostile toward the media for intruding on their grief.
At the lakeside, where King Harald, Queen Sonja and other royals were also present, Mr. Stoltenberg said: “We are a nation in grief. . .Those who tried to scare us shall not win.”
He said Norwegian authorities were in contact with intelligence agencies in neighboring Scandinavian countries. “It is important to see if there are international connections here,” he said.
Police said Mr. Breivik had bought a farm near Oslo recently and a farm supplier said he had bought six tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer from him in May. The fertilizer can be used in a bomb, such as the one that exploded in the city center.
The first atrocity was the car bombing. Then, two hours later, came the attack on the island. Mr. Breivik was dressed as a policeman and told youngster he had come there as part of a security detail to protect them.
Police said he had never been a member of the police force but had served time in the army.
He called on the children on the island, aged between 14 and 18, to gather around him. Then he opened fire. Police said he used automatic weapons and a handgun.
One of the most graphic accounts of the scene of terror on Utoeya was given to the BBC in London by Lisa Marie Husby, a youth leader attending the camp.
She said young people heard gunfire, then “the man with the gun was running behind us, chasing us.”
She and a large group of teenagers ran to a cabin deep in forest on the island. “The man with the gun was running behind us, chasing us.” A girl running behind her was shot in the arm.
The teenagers got inside the cabin, locked the door and piled mattresses against the door and windows. Miss Husby said she crawled under a bed and piled suitcases in front of her.
“For five minutes it was quiet. Then we heard shots. Fifteen minutes later, he was trying to get inside the cabin.”
She said the gunman shot through the door once. Only later did she discover, to her horror, that one of the windows had been left open but the gunman missed this chance to get inside.
She said 50 or 60 youngsters were with her and she felt safe under the bed, “with so many suitcases in front of me and people on top of me. I lay there for two hours after he shot through the door.”
The gunman went away and the youngsters heard shooting farther away. “He continued shooting, I don’t know how long.”
Then she heard police helicopters and boats. She was under the bed for two or three hours before she was rescued.
Police said Mr. Breivik had planted at least one bomb on the island, but it did not go off and was defused.
Some youngsters dived into a lake on which the island is located to try to swim to safety, and the gunman fired at them. Others hid in caves or behind bushes.
After the car bombing, speculation immediately centered on Middle East terrorist groups. Authorities thought perhaps the bombing had been retaliation for the presence of Norwegian troops in Afghanistan and Norwegian fighter jets in the ongoing NATO operation in Libya.
One Middle East terror group issued a statement claiming it was responsible for the bombing, as well as one last December in the Swedish capital Stockholm.
But the arrest of Mr. Breivik put a different complexion on the atrocities.
By Ray Moseley