Norway gunman flagged by law enforcement once before | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.07.2011
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Norway gunman flagged by law enforcement once before

Law enforcement authorities have acknowledged that the main suspect in the Oslo attacks had come to their attention in the past. Norwegians have held a vigil as they prepare for the release of the victims' names.

Participant in candle light vigil

Police are expected to reveal the victims' names

International law enforcement agencies had flagged Anders Behring Breivik prior to the twin bombing and shooting spree that killed 76 people in Oslo on Friday, according to Janne Kristiansen, chief of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST).

Breivik appeared on a list sent by Interpol to authorities in Norway last March that included at least 50 Norwegian nationals who had made purchases from a Polish chemical company.

Kristiansen said that the purchase, equivalent to $22.16 (15.30 euros), was too insignificant to warrant a follow up investigation since Breivik had no prior criminal record and appeared to have "lived a life that was incredibly respectful to the law."

"I don't think even Stasi Germany could have uncovered this person," Kristiansen told the online edition of the Norwegian newspaper VG.

Unanswered questions

Norwegian police are also investigating Breivik's claim that he acted as one cell in a broader network of right-wing extremist groups. In his 1,500 page manifesto published before the massacre in Oslo, Breivik said he was one of 80 "solo martyr cells" recruited from across Western Europe as part of a "Knights Templar" organization.

In Monday's court hearing, Breivik said he acted alone but claimed there were "two more cells in our organization."

"There's no one who seems to know if the group exists or if it's something he made up," Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College, told the news agency Reuters.

Breivik being escorted after court hearing

Breivik claims to be part of a broader network

"They (mass killers) are usually alone," Ranstorp said. "He's extremely narcissistic and he goes on about himself and his role in history."

Police attorney Christian Hatlo told reporters on Monday that he "cannot completely, and I stress completely, rule out that others were involved in what happened."

Breivik, however, wrote in his manifesto that police should be deceived into believing that his cell is larger. This would seem to undermine his claim that he was part of a broader network.

"Intuitively it feels like he is alone when you read the document," Ragnhild Bjoernebekk, a researcher at Norway's police school, told the news agency Reuters.

"It's like he's lost in this made up world and can't distinguish between fantasy and reality," Bjoernebekk said.

Pat on the back

Norway's Justice Minister Knut Storberget has praised the work of law enforcement amid criticism that a special police unit took over an hour to reach Utoeya island while Breivik was shooting children at a Labor Party youth camp there.

"I had the opportunity to thank police in Oslo and other districts and other organs for their fantastic work," Storberget told a press conference on Tuesday.

"These are people who worked much harder than you could expect of anyone, these are people who interrupted their holidays and who volunteered to help from all parts of the country," he said.

Police attorney Hatlo, meanwhile, told the newspaper Aftenposten that authorities were considering charging Breivik with crimes against humanity instead of terrorism. The maximum sentence under Norwegian anti-terrorism law is 21 years in prison. If convicted on charges of crimes against humanity, Breivik would serve 30 years.

Vigil for victims

The streets of Oslo filled with around 150,000 people on Monday evening who participated in a candle light vigil for the victims of Friday's attacks. The vigil followed a nationwide minute of silence held earlier in the day.

Norwegians mourning victims of attack

Authorities could charge Breivik with crimes against humanity

"Tonight the streets are filled with love," Norway's Crown Prince Haakon told the crowd.

Vigil participants carried flowers in a display of grief and solidarity with the victims of the attack. Norwegian police were expected on Tuesday to begin revealing the names of the 68 people killed in the massacre on Utoeya island .

"Evil can kill a person but never conquer a people," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday evening, insisting that Norway would preserve its core values.

"We will still be a society which is very clear on our values of democracy, of openness and a society where we welcome people to be active, participate in political work in a way where they can feel safe."

Author: Spencer Kimball (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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