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Oslo bombing 'could have been prevented'

An investigation by an independent panel into the attacks that killed 77 people in Norway in July 2011 has concluded that the bombing in Oslo that started the attack could have been prevented.

An independent commission submitted a 500 page report to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Monday that assessed the police response to Breivik's massacre in 2011.

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

Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right wing militant, set off a car bomb on July 22, 2011 that killed eight people outside key government buildings in Oslo. He then moved on to the island of Utoeya, going on a shooting spree and killing a further 69 people. Most of the victims on the island were teenagers.

The report found that police could have prevented the bombing. It also insisted that police could have arrested Breivik on Utoeya sooner.

The independent commission was created a year ago by Prime Minister Stoltenberg. At the time, he said the 10-member commission was to help create "a safer Norway" and "get facts on the table."

Surveillance, protection of government buildings, and the response of the police were among areas reviewed by the panel.

Harsh criticism of the police

The head of the commission, Alexandra Bech Gjorv, said that several major weaknesses had been uncovered during the investigation, including a failure to follow procedure and an overall slow response to the emergency.

Security measures were already in place that should have prevented Breivik from parking in front of the government building where he set off a car bomb, according to the report. Bureaucratic red tape allegedly prevented the 2004 recommendation from ever being implemented.

The report also faulted the police for poor communication and response time to the emergency.

The police had received eye witness reports in Oslo shortly after the bombing, but failed to direct them along the proper lines of communication.

During the second phase of the massacre, police could not find transportation to the island of Utoeya, where a swifter arrival could have saved lives.

"The authorities' ability to protect the people on Utoeya island failed," the commission said. "A more rapid police operation was a realistic possibility."

The commission included 31 recommendations in the report. Among the top suggestions were improving police response readiness and limiting the availability of semi-automatic weapons.

The verdict in Breivik's trial is due at the end of August.

During the 10-week trial, prosecutors wrangled with the issue of his sanity. The prosecution has asked the court to sentence Breivik to compulsory psychiatric treatment on the grounds of insanity. If the court finds him sane, Breivik would face a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison. There is also a provision in Norwegian law allowing for indefinite imprisonment if a convict is still deemed a danger to society.

kms, mz/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)