Bomb Rocks Norway Government Headquarters, Killing Two, Injuring 15

Posted July 22nd, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Violent attacks savaged normally peaceful Norway on Friday, with an Oslo bomb blast killing at least seven people and then a gunman disguised as a police officer opening fire on a youth camp.

The twin assaults occurred within hours of each other, although it was not immediately clear they were linked.

The mid-afternoon bomb blast rocked Norway's government headquarters and also set the nearby oil ministry building on fire. Hundreds of windows in the 17-story government headquarters were shattered, as were others in buildings as far as 400 meters away. Thick, black smoke billowed from some of the offices, and streets in the normally quiet neighborhood were littered with debris from the explosion. Authorities said at least seven people were killed and numerous others injured.

Hours later, police reported that a gunman disguised as a police officer opened fire on youths attending a camp sponsored by the ruling Labor Party. At least five people were wounded in the attack. Authorities said they dispatched anti-terror police to the campsite on Utoeya island south of Oslo.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the bombing, saying it was “a reminder that the whole international community has a stake in preventing these types of attacks.” He extended condolences to the Norwegian people and offered any help the American government could provide.

CNA, a research group that studies terrorism, said a terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami — the Helpers of the Global Jihad — claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Islamist organization said the attacks were in response to the presence of Norwegian troops in Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led international fight against the Taliban and Islamic insurgents, as well as insults against the Prophet Mohammed. The claim has yet to be confirmed by Norwegian authorities.

The headquarters building in downtown Oslo houses the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, but a Norwegian spokesman said he and his staff were not injured.

Mr. Stoltenberg told a Norwegian television station that the explosion was a “serious situation.” European Union President Herman Van Rompuy condemned it as an act of “cowardice.”

Norwegian State Secretary Hans Kristian Amundsen told the BBC that there are people trapped inside the headquarters building but he declined to elaborate.

Oslo police said the explosion was caused by a bomb. The tangled wreckage of a car could be seen outside one building, possibly indicating a car bomb was detonated.

Witnesses said they saw several injured people covered with blood as they were carried or ran from government headquarters. One witness said “people ran in panic.”

Political violence is virtually unknown in Norway, and in Oslo, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually. But it is not immune from the types of terrorism cases linked to Islamic terrorism that are common in Western nations.

A Norwegian prosecutor last week filed charges against an Iraqi-born cleric, accusing him of threatening to kill a Norwegian politician if he is deported from the Scandinavian country. But State Secretary Amundsen cautioned that officials are “not speculating anything” about who might be responsible for the attack.