Was the perpetrator of the terror attacks that rocked Norway today a 32-year-old Christian who looks like a failed J. Crew model? If the reporting out of Norwegian outlets is right, the answer appears to be yes.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks earlier today – a car bomb at a government building that includes the offices of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and a second gun attack on an island retreat for the youth wing of the prime minister's labor party -- there was speculation in this paper and elsewhere that Islamist militants could have been involved.
That is looking less and less likely. Norwegian news site vg.no says that 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian national, was arrested after a killing rampage on Utoya Island, about 40 kilometers north of Oslo earlier today, according to multiple police sources. CNN reports, citing Norwegian police, that 80 people were murdered at Utoya, while seven were killed by the car bomb in Oslo.
VG.NO, the online presence of major Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, spoke to someone identified as a childhood friend, who said that Mr. Breivik has identified himself in the past as a nationalist, and that he had posted "controversial" opinions on his Facebook page.
VG used a picture from the Facebook page of a man of the same name which has posed, model-type shots of a square-jawed blond man. The VG site says that Breivik was a registered owner of a Glock handgun (which witnesses on Utoya said was used by the assailant), a rifle, and a shotgun, and that his military training did not go beyond basic national service.The Facebook profile page identifies the man's religious views as "Christian" and his political views as "conservative." He is also identified as being a fan of science fiction and crime TV shows.
The alleged assailant is also identified as holding anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant views that are common among Norway's far right. A twitter feed of a man with the same name and carrying the same picture as the Facebook page has only one tweet, left July 17 in English: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests." The quote appears to be a paraphrase of John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century English philosopher of utilitarianism and liberty.
The emerging picture that comes together from the VG article and other press is of a potential lone actor. Though constructing a car bomb alone (this one made with fertilizer, like the 1995 Oklahoma City attack in the US and many other terrorist events) isn't an easy task, it's not impossible. The Associated Press, reporting from Oslo, cites an unnamed police official as saying "It seems it’s not Islamic-terror related.... This seems like a madman’s work.” The AP did not name the assailant.
Earlier today, politically middle-of-the-road Norwegians were worried that if the terror attack was carried out by Muslim Norwegians, it would fuel the rise of ultranationalist and anti-immigrant feeling. While the story is still breaking, and the information flow from Norwegian authorities could shift, the question now is what impact, if any, today's events will have on the country's politics.
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[Edtior's Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill.]