NORWAY’S worst terrorist outrage was signalled by a double explosion that shook the centre of Oslo in the middle of the afternoon. Within three hours it had become clear that the blasts were just the beginning of what was to become one of the nation’s darkest days.
As emergency workers concentrated on the devastation in the capital, a gunman disguised as a policeman was making his way to a tiny, undefended island on a nearby lake intent on killing students at a Labour Party summer camp.
The carnage began at 3.26pm local time on Friday when a large car bomb, left outside Oslo’s main government building, exploded, shattering almost every window in the 17-storey block in Youngstorget, one of the city’s main squares.
Government workers suspected the attack was aimed at Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose office in the targeted building was badly damaged in the blast. He was working elsewhere at the time.
As emergency crews began arriving at the scene, a second explosion was triggered on the upper floors of an office building opposite the bomb site. It was unclear whether the second blast was caused by a bomb or by structural damage, but on the ground it caused immediate fears that more bombs lay undiscovered.
Police issued an order on radio and TV for people to evacuate the city centre and for those in the suburbs to stay indoors.
Emergency workers were told not to enter buildings to look for survivors because of fears of further blasts, even though some of the injured had used their mobile phones to plead for help.
As the emergency services seemed to be getting a grip on the situation, police began receiving reports of shots being fired on Utoeya, a tiny holiday island on Tyrifjorden Lake, 40 kilometres north-west of Oslo.
The gunman had taken a boat to where 560 members of the Labour Youth movement, aged 15-25, were on a summer camp.
”The person identified himself as a policeman,” said one witness. ”He said it was for a routine check regarding the terrorist attack in Oslo.”
Blond, more than 183 centimetres tall and speaking fluent Norwegian, the ”policeman” did not raise any suspicions as he arrived – but moments later screams filled the air as he opened fire with an automatic weapon. Some students jumped into the icy water in a desperate attempt to escape. One father said: ”I just spoke to my daughter on Utoeya on the phone. She just screamed. She says several of the youths are swimming away from the island now.”
Another parent who rang students said: ”A woman I know took the phone. She whispered: ‘There is someone shooting, I have to hang up.”’ Telephoning loved ones was the worst thing to do, as the sound of a ringtone would alert the gunman to those hiding from him.
With no hope of help arriving quickly, the gunman could take his time to pick off his targets. As the gunman carried on shooting at will, a police special weapons and tactics team finally landed on the island and captured him alive.