– Oslo hit by double terror attack (Vancouver Sun, July 22, 2011)
– Big Blasts at Government Buildings in Oslo; 2 Dead (New York Times, July 22, 2011):
OSLO — Powerful explosions shook central Oslo on Friday afternoon, blowing out the windows of several government buildings, including one housing the office of the Norwegian prime minister. Media reports said that at least two people were killed and several more injured; a spokeswoman for the prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said he was “safe and not hurt.”
Shortly after the apparent bomb attack, a man dressed as a police officer opened fire on a youth political meeting on the island of Utoya in the Oslo fjord, about 25 miles from the city, the police said. There were initial reports that Prime Minister Stoltenberg was scheduled to attend the meeting.
“The situation’s gone from bad to worse,” said Runar Kvernen, spokesman for the National Police Directorate under the Ministry of Justice and Police.As fear spread through the capital, the police moved to lock down a wide area of the city center, where the streets were already nearly deserted.
– Giant blast hits government buildings in Oslo, Norway (CNN, July 22, 2011):
[Update: 1:10 p.m. ET, 7:10 p.m. Oslo] NRK journalist Linda Reinholdsen told CNN she was told many of the youth have been evacuated from the mainland island where a shooter has opened fire. But not much more detail than that is known.
Reinholdsen also said that there is an indication that the death toll may climb from the blasts.
“There are still a lot of people dead inside the government building,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of people injured, a lot of people dead.”
[Update: 1:08 p.m. ET, 7:08 p.m. Oslo] Heide Bronke, a State Department Spokesperson, said the U.S. condemns “these despicable acts of violence.”
“We are continuing to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of U.S. citizens,” Bronke said. “Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we have reached out to the Norwegian Government to express our condolences.”
[Update: 1:05 p.m. ET, 7:05 p.m. Oslo] National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor tells CNN: “The president was briefed on the explosion and reported shootings in Oslo by Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan.
[Update: 12:50 p.m. ET, 6:50 p.m. Oslo] iReporter Ulrik Fredrik Thyve said he was in his office when the blast occurred.
“The explosion was immense. My office felt like it contracted, expanded and windows were blown all over the building. Dust, smoke, people [were] bleeding everywhere. I walked out and towards ground zero to see if there was anything to do,” he said.
Thyve, who is also a freelance photographer, took some pictures of the area.
“Police evacuated us all,” he said.
[Update: 12:50 p.m. ET, 6:50 p.m. Oslo] A person dressed as a policeman has fired shots at the Labour Party Youth Camp on Utoya Island in Norway, Norwegian state broadcaster NRK and the press representative for the Norwegian state secretary said Friday. Many people are injured.
NRK says the shooting is continuing. It says there are about 700 people at the camp.
[Update: 12:48 p.m. ET, 6:48 p.m. Oslo] Shots were fired at an Oslo youth meeting following the blast, police told Reuters, quoted by CNN TV. No further details were available.
A reporter with State TV broadcaster NRK is reporting that there is mass confusion within the city. The cause of the blast remains unknown, and no one has claimed responsibility.
CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said it was far too early to draw any conclusions on whether it was terrorism and who would carry it out. But, he said, by looking at the extent of the damage, it was plain to see the hallmarks of a major attack.
Cruickshank said that in recent months, there had been increased “chatter” about Norway, which had been investigating militants suspected of being linked to al Qaeda.
Norway also drew the ire of al Qaeda for publishing the controversial political cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper and sparked outrage in the militant Islamic community.
The Scandinavian country also plays a part in NATO’s operation in Afghanistan, and now, in Libya.
Norway has been largely spared from terrorism. But last December, an attempted suicide bombing in Stockholm shocked neighboring Sweden.
In July of last year, Norwegian authorities announced the arrests of three suspects in connection with an investigation into terrorist plots in New York and the United Kingdom.
The three were suspected of plotting terrorist attacks and having connections to al Qaeda, the prime minister’s office said at the time.
Stoltenberg, who has been prime minister since October 2005, heads a coalition government made up of the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party.
[Update: 12:31 p.m. ET, 6:31 p.m. Oslo] iReporter Ian Dutton of New York told CNN when the explosion occurred he was sleeping in his hotel room. “The concussion was [such] that I felt like my bed was struck by lightning … I thought it was an earthquake but Norway is not prone to earthquakes,” he said.
He said immediately after the blast, people on the streets seemed stunned.“There wasn’t even initial panic, but more of a shock or ‘how could this be?” he said.
The streets in the blast zone were strangely quiet after the commotion, he said. “Generally it’s a pretty-hopping downtown area, but not now,” he said. “The bystanders are being kept quite a distance away.”
[Update: 12:11 p.m. ET, 6:11 p.m. Oslo] State TV broadcaster NRK confirmed at least two people are dead following an explosion that rocked downtown Oslo, Norway.
[Update: 12:08 p.m. ET, 6:08 p.m. Oslo] Asgeir Ueland, a journalist with Norwegian state broadcaster, said as soon as the explosion occurred it smelled like a burned tire and he knew it wasn’t just a gas explosion.
“I knew right away it was an explosion,” Ueland told CNN.
Ueland, who said he has reported in the Middle East, compared attacks he has seen there to what he experienced Friday in Norway.
“This was bigger than anything I’ve seen,” he said of other blasts he’s seen.
Ueland described the reaction as groups of people in a state of shock.
“There were a lot of people running away crying and screaming,” Ueland said.
[Update: 12:02 a.m. ET, 6:02 p.m. Oslo] Joakim Vars Nilsem told CNN that after the blast many people in Oslo were simply in panic and trying to figure out if there was an attack or an explosion going on.
“First of all we just felt tremendous pressure … people were just in shock … they didn’t understand where it was,” he said. “People are trying to be calm … we just don’t know what happened right now.”
[Update: 11:53 a.m. ET, 5:53 p.m. Oslo] Ian Dutton, an airline pilot who arrived in Oslo Friday, heard a powerful blast and observed the aftermath from the vantage point of his 28th floor hotel room.
“It rocked me out of bed,” he said.
Dutton, who lives in New York City, said that the scene reminded him of what he witnesses on September 11, 2001 there.
“Seeing the emergency response gives me that same feeling in my spine of being in someone’s crosshairs,” he said.
The building that suffered the explosion had a heliport on its roof, and now had beams hanging from it, Dutton, an iReporter, said. Most of the windows were blown off and curtains were dangling.
“I can see the warped metal of the building,” he said.
There was a line of yellow ambulances by the scene, and a police cordon that kept onlookers back.
“I didn’t know Oslo had so many ambulances,” he said.
[Update: 11:46 a.m. ET, 5:46 p.m. Oslo] Jon Martin Larsen, head of media for the Norwegian Red Cross, told CNN: “The Norwegian Red Cross has established its own crisis team and is in contact with the municipality of Oslo and the police, ready to assist with whatever they need of first aiders, rescue teams, ambulance or caretakers either in the city center or at the hospitals.”
[Update: 11:23 a.m. ET, 5:23 p.m. Oslo] A bomb exploded in a government area, a press officer at Oslo Police Station confirmed to CNN.
“There has been a bomb explosion in the government area,” the officer said. “At least one person is dead and a number of people are injured, we don’t have the exact number yet.”
But that spokesperson said so far they don’t know what the cause was.
“We don’t know if this comes from a terrorist action, we don’t know yet. We don’t know exactly how many explosions were yet,” the spokesperson said. “Oslo Center has been evacuated.”
A U.S. official says it is too soon to tell what caused the explosion in Oslo or whether it is a terrorist attack. The possibility of terrorism is always a concern because of the ongoing threat from al Qaeda to launch attacks in Europe.
[Update: 11:21 a.m. ET, 5:21 p.m. Oslo] Hans Kristian Amundsen, state secretary of Norway, said the country’s prime minister was safe and working at an undisclosed location.
[Update: 11:03 a.m. ET, 5:03 p.m. Oslo] Norwegian state broadcaster NRK says at least one person has died after a huge explosion rocked the center of the capital, Oslo. Dozens more are being treated in hospitals, NRK said, and all roads leading to the center of Oslo have been blocked.
[Update: 11:00 a.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. Oslo] A hotel worker in Oslo’s Grand Hotel, about a five-minute walk from the government building, said everyone in the hotel felt and heard the explosion, which felt like someone was shaking the entire building.
“It’s crazy,” she said, not wanting to be identified because she is not authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the hotel. “This happens in the big world, not in Oslo. I’m shocked.”
Vivian Paulsen, media adviser for the Norwegian Red Cross, lives 20 minutes away from the center of Oslo in the northern outskirts of the city. She said she heard a “huge blast.”
“I heard the big bang, I didn’t think it was anything serious. I can still see smoke coming up from the place,” she said, watching from her apartment balcony. She also heard sirens and ambulances.
As for Oslo, she said what others have been saying: Events like this don’t happen in the northern European capital.
“There’s occasional arrests of terror suspects we read about in the paper, or people planning something. I can hear ambulances and sirens.”
[Update: 10:48 a.m. ET, 4:48 p.m. Oslo] Nick Soubiea, an American-Swedish tourist in Oslo, told CNN he was less than 100 yards from the blast, which he described as deafening.
“It was almost in slow motion, like a big wave that almost knocked us off our chairs,” he said. “It was extremely frightening.”
He said the streets were crowded with people trying to get away from the center of the city. “There are people running down the streets, people crying, everyone’s on their cell phones calling home,” he said.
[Update: 10:47 a.m. ET, 4:47 p.m. Oslo] A spokesperson for the Legevakten Hospital in Oslo, Norway confirmed the blasts in the downtown area but said they weren’t sure how bad it was.
“Right now we are not too sure what has happened, we are watching the news and talking to the other hospitals,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t know what caused it or how many people are injured.”
[Update: 10:36 a.m. ET, 4:36 p.m. Oslo] One explosion happened near a government building housing the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, said the reporter, Linda Reinholdsen. Another hit near the Norwegian parliament, she said.
Several buildings in Oslo were on fire, she said, and smoke was pouring from them.
Gibbs, the journalist with Reuters, said he believes one explosion happened on an upper floor of a main government building. He said it blew out every window on the side of the building where the blast occurred.
One of the blasts damaged the Oil Ministry and left it in flames, he said.
[Update: 10:16 a.m. ET, 4:16 p.m. Oslo] At least one of the explosions happened near some government buildings, said Walter Gibbs, a journalist with Reuters. He said he saw eight injured people, including two or three with serious wounds and one who looked dead. Reuters reported that the prime minister was safe.
[Update: 10:11 a.m. ET, 4: 11 p.m Oslo] A second blast was heard in central Oslo shortly after an initial explosion rocked the city, a reporter for Norwegian state broadcaster NRK told CNN Friday. Linda Reinholdsen said there was a state of confusion in the city and several government buildings were affected.
[10 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. Oslo] An explosion rocked a part of central Oslo, Norway, on Friday, state TV reported. State TV broadcaster NRK said on its website that windows in several buildings had been blown out and people were in the street bleeding. News reports suggest the government building has been affected.