Norwegian Police confirmed the massive bombing in downtown Oslo this afternoon is linked to a shooting at a political youth camp west of the capital, though authorities declined to speculate on who was behind the attacks or what their motives might have been.
Police arrested the gunman who opened fire about 5 p.m. on campers, killing at least 10. “We can confirm that a person is arrested, and we believe that he has had dealings with both events,” said Sveinung Sponheim, Norway's national police chief.
Knut Storberget, the country’s justice minister, said police were still investigating the man’s background but confirmed that he was a Norwegian national.
Norwegian Radio cited a witness who said the gunman spoke Norwegian and described him as tall and blonde. Mr. Storberget said it was unclear if the man was acting alone.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg remained defiant in the face of the attacks and said any guilty parties would be brought to justice.
“We will find the guilty and hold them responsible," he said at the press conference. “No one will bomb us to silence. No one will shoot us to silence. No one will ever scare us away from being Norway.”
Both events are likely to prompt soul-searching in Norway, and many citizens are likely to suspect Islamic militants, says Iver Neumann, a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
“Norwegian forces are currently involved in two wars, Afghanistan and Libya. Parts of the Norwegian media participated in the Danish caricature campaign [of the prophet Muhammad] in 2005. We know that Al Qaeda has put Norway on a list of potential targets,” says Mr. Neumann. “There will certainly be a debate about Norway’s relationship with Islam. And there will be a debate about the level of security we afford to our leaders.”
Norwegians are in a state of shock after a powerful explosion in Oslo’s government quarter. Police have confirmed that seven people are dead and more than a dozen were injured in the attack, which damaged the prime minister’s office and the oil ministry.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg was not near the site of the blast and was unharmed.
The shooting took place about an hour later on the island of Utoya, where news reports said a man disguised as a police officer fired upon campers. The governing Norwegian Labor party organized the camp and the prime minister was expected to visit the camp on Saturday.
Roughly 550 youths were attending the camp and witnesses called the scene chaotic after the shooting. Several camp-goers fled into the woods in a panic while others dove into the lake in which the island sits and attempted to swim to shore.
In Oslo, Reuters described seeing a burned, mangled car parked near one of the buildings. Police cordoned off a large swath of central Oslo and are asking people to stay clear of the area and to limit their use of cell phones.
Recently, a Norwegian prosecutor filed terror charges against an Iraqi-born cleric Mullah Krekar who allegedly threatened to kill Norwegian politicians if he is deported to Iraq. Mr. Krekar, the founder of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, still lives in the country.
A suicide bomber hit Sweden, Norway's neighbor, in early December. The Iraqi-born man, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, named Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan and Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who drew an image of the prophet Muhammad’s head on a dog’s body in 2007, as motivation for the attack. Only two people were injured.
Swedish police have stepped up security in Stockholm in reaction to the attack and Swedish Foreign Ministry Carl Bildt expressed solidarity with his Scandinavian neighbor, writing on Twitter, "Terrorism has struck. Police confirms bomb in Oslo. We are all Norwegians."
President Obama also condemned the attacks and said they serve as a reminder of the world’s need to combat terrorism.
“We have to work cooperatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks,” he said from Washington.
“Many Norwegians remember what happened in Oklahoma,” says Neumann’s colleague, Stale Ulriksen, director of NUPI. “Everybody started talking about Islamic fundamentalism and then it turned out to be an American right-winger. Norway’s extreme right is small in numbers, but that’s the problem with this kind of attack – it doesn’t take many people to pull something like this off.”
NUPI offices are about 200 yards from the prime minister’s building. “I took my 5-year-old son to the office just to pick up some mail,” says Neumann. “We left the building 30 minutes before the blast. I can’t believe how lucky we were.”
“This is absolutely unprecedented,” says Neumann, who seems shaken by the explosion. “This is the most serious act of violence that has happened in Norway since the end of World War II, when the country was occupied by the Nazis.”
Even if the number of fatalities does not climb, he is convinced that the impact of the explosion will be huge.
“There are 5 million Norwegians, 600,000 in Oslo. This means everyone will know someone who was at the blast site. The whole country is on edge.”
After incidents in other Scandinavian countries, namely the murders of Sweden’s prime minister Olof Palme in 1986 and of Sweden’s Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in 2003, Norway made a conscious decision not to heighten the protection for politicians and other public figures.
“We see it as a key political value in itself not to have that kind of militarized society,” says Neumann. “Whether we can still afford such an open society, is now up for debate.”