Norway mourns 92 victims after ‘hell on paradise island’

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Norway mourns 92 victims after ‘hell on paradise island’

OSLO - Police said they were questioning a right-wing Christian on Saturday over the massacre of 92 people in a killing spree that Norway’s prime minister said had turned an island paradise into hell on earth.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 23 Jul 2011, 11:21 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:14 PM

As harrowing testimony emerged from the summer camp where scores of youngsters were mown down, Norway was struggling to understand how a country famed as a beacon of peace could experience such bloodshed on its soil.

“Never since the Second World War has our country been hit by a crime on this scale,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told journalists as police searched for more bodies on the idyllic Utoeya island.

“Many of those who have died were friends. I know their parents and it happened at a place where I spent a long time as a young person... It was a paradise of my youth that has now been turned into hell.”

The latest death toll from the island massacre stood at 85 and seven people also died in an earlier explosion which ripped through government buildings in Oslo. Police confirmed on Saturday that the blast was the result of a car bomb.

However the toll could still rise as police said four or five people were still missing from the island. A mini-submarine was deployed to aid the search operation, along with Red Cross scuba divers.

While there was no official confirmation of the suspect’s identity, he was widely named by the local media as Anders Behring Breivik.

National police commissionner Sveinung Sponheim said said that investigators were still trying to establish if a second shooter was present on the island, as suggested by certain witness accounts.

The blond-haired Behring Breivik described himself on his Facebook page as “conservative”, “Christian”, and interested in hunting and computer games like World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2, the reports said.

On his Twitter account, he posted only one message, dated July 17, in English based on a quote from British philosopher John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to a force of 100,000 who have only interests.”

He is an “ethnic” Norwegian and a “Christian fundamentalist,” police spokesman Roger Andersen said, adding that his political opinions leaned “to the right”.

The head of the populist right-wing Progress Party (FrP) confirmed Behring Breivik had been a party member between 1999 and 2006 and for several years a leader in its youth movement.

“Those who knew the suspect when he was a member of the party say that he seemed like a modest person that seldom engaged himself in the political discussions,” Siv Jensen said in a statement on the party’s website.

Anti-fascist monitors meanwhile said Behring Breivik was also a member of a Swedish neo-Nazi Internet forum named Nordisk, which hosts discussions ranging from white power music to political strategies to crush democracy.

The attacks on Friday afternoon were western Europe’s deadliest since the 2004 Madrid bombings, carried out by Al-Qaeda.

While there had been initial fears they might have been an act of revenge over Norway’s participation in the campaigns in Afghanistan and Libya, the focus shifted when it emerged the suspect was a native Norwegian.

Seven of the victims were killed in the car bomb which seared through landmark buildings including Stoltenberg’s office and the finance ministry.

It is thought that the car-bomber then caught a ferry to nearby Utoeya wearing a police sweater.

On arrival, he claimed to be investigating the bomb attack and began opening fire with an automatic weapon. The shooting spree last for an hour-and-a-half.

Witnesses described scenes of horror among the more than 500 people attending the youth camp. Some who tried to swim to safety were even shot in the water.

Khamshajiny Gunaratnam, a 23-year-old who swam to safety, said people had initially thought it was some kind of joke before she and her friends realised their lives were in danger.

“We ran and ran. The worst thing was when we found out the shooter was dressed as a policeman. Who could we trust then? If we called the police, would he be the guy would come to our ‘rescue’?,” she wrote on her blog.

She and her friend Matti swam towards the mainland as the gunman fired into the water. After a while, a boat picked them up and brought them to safety.

“We are just ordinary young people. We are involved in politics. We want to make the world a better place,” she wrote.

Stine Haheim, a Labour party lawmaker who was on the island, said the gunman had carried out his killings methodically.

“He was very calm. He was not running, he was moving slowly and shooting at every person he saw,” she said.

Stoltenberg, as he visited some of the survivors, spoke of his own anguish at the massacre on an island to which he was a frequent visitor. He had been due to give a speech on Saturday to the camp, organised by his Labour party.

The prime minister said he had been deeply moved by speaking to youngsters who had told him how they swam to shore under a hail of gunfire, in some cases helping friends who had been shot.

Norwegian police said they feared there could also be explosives on the island. According to a spokeswoman for a farming cooperative, the suspect bought six tonnes of fertiliser — which can be used to make bombs — in May.

There was widespread international condemnation with US President Barack Obama saying the attacks were “a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring.”

The Norwegian capital is a well-known symbol of international peace efforts and home to the Nobel Peace Prize.

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