Norwegian media have identified the suspect as Anders Behring Breivik.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
OSLO — Police Saturday charged a man they identified as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian in a bombing in Norway’s capital and a shooting attack on a nearby island that left at least 92 people dead.
Officials said the death toll could climb as they continued to search for the missing.
Survivors of the shooting have described hiding and fleeing into the water to escape the gunman, but a police briefing detailed for the first time how long the terror lasted — and how long victims waited for help.
Police arrived at the site of the island massacre about an hour and a half after the gunman first opened fire.
They were slowed because they didn’t have quick access to a helicopter and then couldn’t find a boat to make their way to the scene just several hundred yards offshore.
A SWAT team was dispatched to the island more than 50 minutes after people vacationing at a campground said they heard shooting across the lake, Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim said. The drive to the lake took about 20 minutes, and once there, the team took another 20 minutes to find a boat.
“There were problems with transport to Utoya,” where the youth-wing of Norway’s left-leaning Labor Party was holding a retreat, Chief Sponheim said.
The assailant surrendered when police finally reached him.
Even police confessed to not knowing much about the suspect, but details trickled out about him: He had ties to a right-leaning political party, he posted on Christian fundamentalist Web sites, and he rented a farm where police found about 10,000 pounds of fertilizer.
Police said the suspect is talking to them and has admitted to firing weapons on the island.
It was not clear if he had confessed to anything else he is accused of.
As stunned Norwegians grappled with the deadliest attack in the country since World War II, a portrait began to emerge of the suspect as a gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.
Police have not formally identified the suspect, but Norwegian media have identified him as Anders Behring Breivik, 32.
In a Facebook page and a Twitter account set up under that name days before the rampage, suggesting a conscious effort to construct a public persona, he cited philosophers Immanuel Kant and Niccolo Machiavelli. Though there did not appear to be calls for violence in his Internet postings, he hinted at his will to act in his lone Twitter post, paraphrasing John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”
While the motives for the rampage remained obscure, fresh details from witnesses provided a clearer picture of the terror on the island of Utoya, a wooded retreat accessible only by boat about 19 miles northwest of Oslo.
Most of the 600 campers, many from political families, had gathered in the main assembly building Friday for a briefing on the bombing two hours earlier in Oslo. Relatives of many of the youths worked in the vicinity of the blast.
As soon as the shooting started, people panicked, witnesses said, running in all directions, tumbling down the island’s rocky hill in an attempt to reach the sea. Even after many made it into the water, the gunman calmly and methodically shot at those who were swimming.
“People right behind me were shot,” said Helen Andreassen, 21, a political adviser for the Labor Party’s youth wing. “I heard shots right behind me. He was standing just by the water, using his rifle, just taking his time, aiming and shooting. It was a slaughter of young children.”
Witnesses said the attacker wore a police uniform, which allowed him to deceive his victims as they sought help.
At one point, the gunman emerged from the forest and persuaded several youths who had sought refuge on the shore to come to him, said Stine Renate Haaheim, 27, a member of parliament with the Labor Party, who was also among those hiding. Then the gunman opened fire.
There were unconfirmed reports Saturday of a second gunman on the island.
The newspaper VG cited one survivor of the massacre as saying that he saw a second man, about 5-foot-11 with thick dark hair, holding a pistol and carrying a rifle slung across his back. Mr. Breivik is a blue-eyed blond.
But several witnesses said they knew nothing of a second gunman, and the police declined to comment on the report.
“We are not sure whether he was alone or had help,” police spokesman Roger Andresen said.
Mr. Breivik has not been linked to any anti-jihadist groups, he said.
The shooting occurred on the heels of what police called an “Oklahoma city-type” bombing in Oslo’s downtown: It targeted a government building, was allegedly perpetrated by a homegrown assailant, and used the same mix of fertilizer and fuel that blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
In all, at least 92 people were killed in the twin attacks that police are blaming on the same suspect.
“He has confessed to the factual circumstances,” Mr. Breivik’s defense lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told public broadcaster NRK.
Mr. Lippestad said his client had also made some comments about his motives.
“He’s said some things about that but I don’t want to talk about it now,” the lawyer told NRK.
The Norwegian news agency NTB said that the suspect wrote a 1,500-page manifesto before the attack in which he attacked multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.
Divers have been searching the surrounding waters and Chief Sponheim said the missing may have drowned.
Police earlier said there was still an unexploded device on the island, but it later turned out to be fake.
King Harald V and Queen Sonja met with survivors of the camp shooting and their family members at a hotel outside Oslo Saturday.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.