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Island massacre

July 24, 2011

At least 93 people have been confirmed dead after a brutal and tragic car bombing and shooting. Now the police are under pressure to explain why it took them an hour to arrive on the island where the shooting took place.

Police chiefs speak at news conference
Police said there should have been an officer on the islandImage: picture alliance/dpa

As Norway mourned the deaths of at least 93 people in a bombing in Oslo and a brutal shooting on a nearby island, questions arose over the sluggish police response to the attack.

The suspect in the shooting, Anders Behring Breivik, was wearing a policeman's uniform on Friday when he opened fire on several hundred people on the small island of Utoeya northwest of Oslo.

It apparently took police about an hour to arrive on the scene after they received an emergency call from the island. At least 86 people were killed in the shooting, most of them young people attending a summer camp organized by the ruling Labor Party. Nearly 100 people were injured.

Oslo police chief Sveinung Sponheim told a news conference that there was supposed to be a police officer on the island, but that it was not known where the officer was when the shooting took place.

Smoke rises from building in Oslo
The bomb hit central Oslo on Friday hours before the shootingImage: dapd

Sponheim added that the suspect still had "lots of ammunition" when he surrendered to special police forces, and that a criminal technician expert from the Metropolitan police in London is aiding the investigation.

Time setbacks

A decision by the police to wait for a special armed unit from Oslo, 45 kilometers (28 miles) away, delayed their response. An inadequate boat also apparently slowed things down even further.

"When so many people and equipment were put into it, the boat started to take on water, so that the motor stopped," said Erik Berga, police operations chief in Buskerud County.

Local residents reportedly reached the island before the police. Forty-eight-year-old Line, who asked her last name not be published, told AFP news agency that police had told her not to approach the island, but that she and her neighbors could not stand by as they heard the screams of children being shot.

"It was not just me but many people here with boats," Line said. "There were maybe 20 boats. We got close and went round the island, we got much closer than the police or medical services."

Police spokesman Henning Holtaas said he was "sure" the police response to the attack would be investigated, but that the current priority was "to save lives and conduct the ongoing operation."

Women crying
At a memorial service for the victims, Stoltenberg called the attacks a 'national tragedy'Image: dapd

Anti-Muslim manifesto

Anders Behring Breivik, 32, is also the chief suspect in a car bombing that hit government buildings in Oslo on Friday, hours before the shooting on the island.

Police say he has confessed to both attacks, and that he claims to have acted alone. The self-described "Marxist hunter" recently posted a manifesto, which he may have authored, of more than 1,500 pages online condemning an "ongoing Islamic invasion/ colonization" of Europe.

The suspect was due to appear in court for the first time on Monday, where a judge is expected to rule on whether the hearing will be open to the public. It may be weeks before formal charges are read against him.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the royal family were among those who attended a memorial service for the victims of the attack at Oslo cathedral.

"Each death is a tragedy," said Stoltenberg. "Combined they constitute a national tragedy."

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight