When news first broke yesterday of the bombing and massacre in Norway, several analogies came to mind: Madrid. Mumbai. Of course, in the US, we always think of 9/11. According to the latest from Oslo, however, the better analogy might be Oklahoma City. Police have arrested a 32-year-old described as a Christian fundamentalist and a right-wing extremist for the murder of 91 people in yesterday’s attacks:
The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.
The police said they did not know if the man, identified by the Norwegian media as Anders Behring Breivik, was part of a larger conspiracy. He is being questioned under the country’s terrorism laws, the police said, and is cooperating with the investigation of the attacks, the deadliest on Norwegian soil since World War II.
“We are not sure whether he was alone or had help,” a police official, Roger Andresen, said at a televised news conference. “What we know is that he is right-wing and a Christian fundamentalist.” So far Mr. Breivik has not been linked to any anti-jihadist groups, he said. …
Even as the police locked down a large area of the city after the blast, the suspect, dressed as a police officer, entered the youth camp on the island of Utoya, about 19 miles northwest of Oslo, a Norwegian security official said, and opened fire. “He said it was a routine check in connection with the terror attack in Oslo,” one witness told VG Nett, the Web site of a national newspaper.
The police said the suspect had used “a machine pistol” in the attack, but declined to provide additional details.
A jihadist group did take credit for the attack yesterday, but that could just as easily have been a way to exploit the tragedy for a little PR. According to the reports, Breivik had been seen in Oslo as well as on Utoya yesterday, which means he might have been acting alone.
Further evidence that domestic politics might have been the motive was the target selection. One of Utoya Island’s youth camp is sponsored by the Labour Party, and a Labour official had given a speech on the island “hours” prior to the attack. The terrorist killed at least 84 people in his “machine pistol” attack on Utoya, but there were at least a few survivors. CNN has this heartbreaking report from one wounded victim who pretended to be dead after being shot in the shoulder — and then sent out messages on Twitter to alert people to the carnage:
On a rural island some 20 miles from Norway’s capital, hundreds of young members of the country’s Labour Party gathered each summer to discuss politics and democracy and enjoy each other’s company.
Utoya island, which can only be reached by boat, has been used by the Labour Party for its youth conference for decades, as well as a destination for family camping trips.
All that changed Friday when a gunman dressed as a policeman went on a shooting rampage there, leaving at least 84 confirmed dead and many wounded of the roughly 600 people who’d been attending the camp — most of them teenagers.
Survivors of the attack told of running terrified through the tiny island’s wooded areas, seeking a place to hide as the sound of gunshots rang out for well over an hour.
An hour? Just from a logistical standpoint, that’s terrifying. Breivik would have had to repeatedly reload, and he must have been carrying a lot of ammunition, wich would have slowed him down somewhat. No one else on the island was armed, apparently, a point underscored by my friends at Power Line. Incidents like this are exceedingly rare, which is why they get so much attention, so people should be wary of drawing any particular lesson from a single data point. In general, though, when malefactors determined to commit violence do appear (whatever the context), a thoroughly disarmed victim set only helps them succeed.
Let’s offer prayers for the victims and for the nation of Norway, and a speedy and comprehensive resolution to this case.
Update: Jesse Walker at Reason looks at Breivik’s online track record:
Breivik reportedly left a host of comments on the Norwegian website document.no, and they have been collected here. The Norwegian-American libertarian Lene Johansen has been posting useful summaries of those statements on her Twitter feed; there is also Google’s translation of the page, which is fairly clear though not necessarily reliable in every detail. Breivik appears to be deeply opposed to Islam, immigration, and multiculturalism, and he believes libertarians are soft on the multicultural menace.