Shaken nation sees hint of Oklahoma City

OSLO — With at least 92 dead and a suspect in custody, Norwegians trying to make sense of the bombing and shooting attacks here turned repeatedly Saturday to the one example that seemed to fit: the Oklahoma City bombing.

Here, as there, a quick assumption that Muslims were at fault proved to be erroneous. Norwegians now know that a 32-year-old Christian, who railed against multiculturalism, is the principal and perhaps only suspect in the killings that occurred Friday in Oslo and at an island nearby. His name is Anders Behring Breivik; police say he has admitted to the shootings. A Norwegian newspaper reported that he had recently bought a large quantity of fertilizer, which can be used to make bombs — as the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy Mc­Veigh, showed in 1995.

According to Web postings he apparently wrote, Breivik has lived on the margins of Norway’s extreme right wing, a movement that has been in decline for at least a decade. The writings denounce politicians in general for betraying the nation — but offer no hint of violence.

The country of 4.5 million was plunged into grief Saturday, especially because more than 80 of the victims were teenagers attending a Labor Party camp on the island of Utoya. Oslo was hushed, even though thousands came out on the streets, whether out of curiosity or in solidarity. As soft showers fell, the loudest sound was of workmen sweeping up broken glass.

“This is still our city,” said Knut Aafloey, a leader of the Norwegian Artists and Songwriters Association. “People want to be close to where it happened.”

Soldiers from the King’s Guard, in body armor and carrying automatic weapons, guarded the closed-off streets at the bomb site. That was a shocking sight to residents of a city that thinks of itself as home to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg visited with survivors of the island massacre and with families of the bereaved at a hotel on the mainland. “It’s too early to say how this will change Norwegian society,” he said. He hopes, Stoltenberg said, that Norway can maintain its open and democratic society. “Those who try to scare us shall not win.”

The royal family also paid a visit. In the evening, Queen Sonja, along with her son, Crown Prince Haakon, and his family, arrived at the Domkirke, Oslo’s Lutheran cathedral. They were met by the dean while several hundred people silently watched on the sidewalk. The royal party then entered the sweltering 17th-century cathedral, where they stayed for several minutes of silent prayer. Again, when they left, the crowds were silent.

The preparation that must have gone into the bombing and the shootings was terrible to think about, said Inger Margrethe Eriksen, 71, as she stepped out of the Domkirke. “The buildings can be repaired, but the children . . . ,” her voice trailed off.

In television interviews, survivors of the island assault described a scene of chaos and panic. The gunman, dressed as a police officer, scoured the island. Carrying two guns, he shot everyone he could in a span of 90 minutes. Police said they think some of the victims drowned while trying to swim away. Eighty-five are confirmed dead. Four are missing. They also said it is possible that two men took part in the attack there.


tags: oslo, Norwegians
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