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Breivik report forces Norway police chief resignation

Norway's police chief has resigned after an independent report found that last year's twin attacks by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik could have been prevented. It criticized a slow and disorganized police response.

Oeystein Maeland's resignation was announced by Justice Minister Grete Faremo during a televised debate into the attacks on Thursday. In a statement cited later by Norway's NTB news agency, Maeland said he had quit after losing the confidence of the justice ministry.

The "confidence of the justice ministry is of course decisive for me to remain in my job", the police chief said. "If the ministry and other political authorities do not clarify this matter unequivocally, it will become impossible for me to continue."

His resignation came three days after an independent commission appointed by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg published an investigation into the authorities' response to the twin attacks, which left 77 people dead.

Noweigian Police director Oystein Maeland

Maeland was a long-serving Labour party politician before his appointment as police chief

On July 22, 2011, the far-right extremist set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people. He then travelled to the island of Utoeya where he gunned down 69 people, mostly teenagers, who were gathered at a Labour party youth camp. 

Damning report

The report found that intelligence services could have uncovered Breivik's plans to carry out the Oslo attack when he purchased bomb-making components. It also said police could have apprehended him as he travelled from the bombing scene to the youth camp.

"The attack on the government complex on July 22 could have been prevented through effective implementation of already adopted security measures," the commission said.

Maeland, who was appointed just weeks before the attacks, has been criticized for his failure to account for police shortcomings.

Pressure has also been mounting on the ruling Labour party. According to a poll by public broadcaster NRK, however, 72 percent of voters do not think the prime minister needs to step down in the wake of the report. Parliament is scheduled to debate the findings of the investigation in an extra session at the end of the month.

Breivik pleaded guilty during his ten-week trial which ended in June. A verdict is expected on August 24.

ccp/ lw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)