Norway attacks: Shaken nation sees shades of Oklahoma City

OSLO — The suspect in Norway’s recent bombing and shooting attacks has acknowledged to police that he carried them out, but he insists he is not criminally responsible, his lawyer said late Saturday night.

The incidents took place after years of planning, according to a 1,500-page manifesto that the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, had posted on the Web. Though the manifesto is in English, and there had been some doubts about its authenticity, Breivik admitted that it was his doing, his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told the state broadcasting company.

Breivik argued that he was forced to act to help save Europe from multiculturalism. His targets at the shooting site were teenage members of the social democratic Labor Party.

At a memorial service for the victims Sunday, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said: “Every one of those gone is a tragedy. Together it counts as a national disaster.”

He spoke of friends who were killed at Utoya, appearing to be on the edge of tears himself as sobs rang out in the church.

“In the middle of all the tragedy, I am proud to live in a country which has managed to stand tall in a critical time,” he said. “Our response is more democracy, more openness and more humanity, but never naivete.”

Oslo’s acting police chief, Sveinung Sponheim, said Sunday that police are still searching for bodies on the island where the attack took place. The death toll stands at 92, with at least four people missing. Police haven’t ruled out the possibility that Breivik may have had an accomplice, but have no suspects, Sponheim said.

On Sunday morning, police raided an industrial site in eastern Oslo. A spokesman told Norwegian newspapers that the action was connected to Friday’s attacks. Apparently, officers were looking for explosives that might have been stored there. A residential building on the site, which appears to be a prefabricated structure, was cleared of its inhabitants. Neighbors told the VG newspaper that they thought most of the people living on the premises were from Eastern Europe.

Police said they found no explosives in the search of the commercial property. A few residents were questioned but released.

Breivik is due to appear in court Monday for a hearing. He is also being examined by a police doctor.

His huge manifesto touches on everything from medieval history to the wars in Yugoslavia to weaponry to why Budapest is his favorite city. He writes a lot about sugar beets because they require large amounts of fertilizer; he suggests that anyone wanting to make explosives should grow beets commercially to justify large fertilizer purchases.

He apparently grew beets himself. The manifesto also includes a detailed diary of the past 80 days, in which he describes his meticulous planning for the car bombing in downtown Oslo and the subsequent shooting rampage on the island of Utoeya.


Overall, the huge collection of writing is a screed against Islam and the consequences of immigration to Europe. Breivik writes that a fourth-generation war is necessary to preserve the European people. He defends the Serbs for the war in Bosnia. He also says the man he’d most like to meet is Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s prime minister. He attacks neo-Nazis for glorifying Adolf Hitler because, he writes, by killing Jews, Hitler was opening the door to an Islamic resurgence. Breivik also criticizes some Jews — those who are anti-Zionist.

He refers to himself as Justiciar Knight Commander of the Knights Templar.

Norwegians trying to make sense of the bombing and shooting attacks here turn again and again to the one example that seems to fit: Oklahoma City.

Here, as there, a quick assumption that Muslims were at fault proved to be erroneous. Norwegians now know that Breivik, a 32-year-old Christian, is the principal and perhaps only suspect. A Norwegian newspaper reported that he had recently bought a large quantity of fertilizer, which can be used to make bombs — as Timothy McVeigh showed in 1995.

Breivik has lived on the margins of Norway’s extreme right wing — a movement that has been in decline for at least a decade. In addition to the manifesto, other Web postings that are apparently his denounce politicians in general for their betrayal of the nation, but offer no hint of violence.

The country has been plunged into grief, especially given that more than 80 of the victims were teenagers attending a Labor Party camp on Utoeya. A hush descended on Oslo on Saturday, even though thousands went out on the streets, drawn by both a sense of solidarity and natural human curiosity. As soft showers swept the city, the loudest sound was of workmen sweeping up broken glass.

“This is still our city,” said Knut Aafloey, a leader of the Norwegian Artists and Songwriters Association. “People want to be close to where it happened.”

Soldiers from the King’s Guard, in body armor and carrying automatic weapons, guarded the closed-off streets at the bomb site. That was a shocking sight to residents of a city that thinks of itself as home to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Stoltenberg visited with survivors of the island massacre and with families of the bereaved at a hotel on the mainland. “It’s too early to say how this will change Norwegian society,” he said. He hopes, Stoltenberg said, that Norway can maintain its open and democratic society. “Those who try to scare us shall not win.”

The royal family also paid a visit. In the evening, Queen Sonja, along with her son, Crown Prince Haakon, and his family, arrived at the Domkirke, Oslo’s Lutheran cathedral. They were met by the dean while several hundred people silently watched on the sidewalk. The royal party then entered the sweltering 17th-century cathedral, where they stayed for several minutes of silent prayer. Again, when they left, the crowds were silent.

The preparation that must have gone into the bombing and the shootings was terrible to think about, said Inger Margrethe Eriksen, 71, as she stepped out of the Domkirke. “The buildings can be repaired, but the children . . .,” her voice trailed off.

In television interviews, survivors of the island assault described a scene of chaos and panic. The gunman, dressed as a police officer, scoured the island. Carrying two guns, he shot everyone he could in a span of 90 minutes. Police said they think some of the victims drowned while trying to swim away. Eighty-five are confirmed dead. Four are missing. They also said it is possible that two men took part in the attack there.

Witnesses have said that the shooting lasted an hour before police arrived at the scene, although police said they were there 40 minutes after the gunfire started.

After Breivik’s capture, police brought him ashore in a small boat.

“He looked unaffected, quite cold, like it was a normal day,” said Anders Nohre Berg, 34, who lives nearby. “I think a lot of people are happy it’s just one crazy guy, not a terrorist group or al-Qaeda or something like that.”

Sigrid Skeie Tjensvoll, who had come out to see the bomb damage in Oslo, agreed. “If Islamic people do something bad, you think, ‘Oh, it’s Muslims,’ ” she said. “But if a white Protestant does something bad, you just think he’s mad. That’s something we need to think about.”

Like others, she was trying to grasp the randomness of terror. She works for the state broadcaster NRK, which is in a building close by the site of the explosion. At first she thought the noise was thunder, then maybe a gas explosion. Then she realized it was a bomb. “This whole area is where we go every day. Any of us could have — you know, I could have gone for a beer with my friends around here. That’s where I would go.”

Deeqa Omer was at home about 200 yards from the bomb site. “This is totally shocking for us,” she said. “Norway’s a tiny, tiny country. Everybody knows everybody. The town is petite.”

She arrived in Norway from Somalia when she was 4 and today runs a nursery school. She’s Muslim but said she can’t say she feels relieved now that suspicion has shifted. “The thing is, so many young people died. And something has changed. I don’t know if I can see Oslo with the same eyes as before, really feeling safe. I’m afraid maybe this is something new.”

The bomb blast blew out the windows at the Vaart Land newspaper office. Brita Skogly Kraglund said the whole staff ran out into the street. She was unhurt but badly shaken. She left behind her glasses, phone and keys. It was 3:30 p.m., and deadline was approaching. They couldn’t go back into the building, so a core group of writers and editors went to the home of the newspaper’s IT chief, who had plenty of computers scattered across his house. They got the paper out.

“I thought immediately about Oklahoma City,” said her husband of 32 years, Ivar Dyb Kraglund, a senior researcher at Norway’s Resistance Museum, as first Muslims and then a lone right-winger were blamed. “But then this massacre” on the island followed the bombing, he said, making the incident even more horrifying.

“It’s worse than anything the Germans did in this country” during World War II, he said, though hundreds of Norwegian Jews were deported and later killed elsewhere.

The right-wing extremist movement in Norway is not a hothouse for violent rhetoric or action. “There isn’t this big milieu” of extremists talking to one another, said Anders Ravik Jupskas, an expert on far-right extremism at the University of Oslo.

The right-wing Progress Party, the second-largest political bloc in the country, favors a severely restricted immigration policy, but it has disavowed violence, and some of its most extremist members were pushed out several years ago.

Breivik was a youth member of the party from 1999 until 2004, Norwegian media reported, but he appears to have split from the group because he felt it was not sufficiently anti-immigrant, according to Internet postings attributed to him on a far-right Web site, Document.no .

Based on Breivik’s apparent online writings, Jupskas said, “His whole ideology is really infused by this idea that the Norwegian political establishment has betrayed the country, that they’ve turned this into a multicultural experiment and that someone has to put a stop to it.”

A Facebook profile that appeared to be Breivik’s was deleted early Saturday. On it, Breivik described himself as Christian and conservative and listed an interest in hunting and in “founding and developing organizations.” His literary affinities, he said, include John Stuart Mill, George Orwell and Franz Kafka. He liked to watch “Dexter” — an American television show about a serial killer.

“There’s a fine line between genius and crazy,” said Roy Erik Brynjulfsen, 25, who was at work providing technical support for a satellite television company just a few blocks from the blast site and who came out Saturday to see what he could see. “Obviously, this was a crazy man. He did it on his own, thinking he was a genius.”

Staff writer Alice Fordham in Washington contributed to this report.

Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.
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