STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A 32-year-old blonde Norwegian, who calls himself a Christian conservative standing against any kind of multicultural society, killed 84 young men and women at a summer camp in a cold-blooded shooting spree on Friday after setting off a large bomb at government offices in the heart of Norway’s capital, police in Norway say.
Anders Behring Breivik, who is described as a nice and peaceful young man living with his 60-year-old mother in downtown Oslo, was arrested by the Oslo police for what Norwegian media are calling the most serious crime committed in Scandinavia since the German invasion of Norway and Denmark in 1941.
Few could imagine that the bomb that turned the prime minister’s office and several other government buildings into wrecks was only the beginning of what would turn out to be a day of horrific terror for hundreds of Norwegian teenagers.
Thousands of windows were blown out when the blast struck in the city's center, sending blood-covered people running for safety, crying and screaming in confusion. Meanwhile, Breivik allegedly headed for the annual summer camp of the Norwegian Labour Party, which is the party of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
About 600 young men and women had gathered to barbeque, swim and talk politics when Breivik showed up dressed in a police uniform, officials charge. The 32-year-old told the teenagers that he wanted to inform them about the attack against their party leader’s office. He climbed up on a small rock in the garden.
Lisa Irene Johansen Aasbo is one of the young women who experienced the horrific tragedy first hand.
“We were told to gather inside to be informed about the attack that just occurred. When we went inside we heard someone shooting outside. We thought it must be some kind of a joke but we heard people screaming so we looked out the windows and saw a man wearing a police uniform and a safety jacket. He stood on a big stone and shot the girls who lay on the ground. We still thought it must be a joke,” she said.
“We ran outside and saw several girls covered in blood so we fled into the woods. We ran further as we heard the shooting”, she added.
But the shooter chased the teens across the small island, executing them one by one. After shooting the victims, he walked next to them and shot them in their heads, eyewitnesses confirmed.
“He was laughing and cheering when shooting people in their faces,” said Bjerge Schie, 21, who ran for cover. Aasbo and many others fled into the water to escape the shooter.
“We swam and then a boat came and picked us up. We thought we were safe but suddenly the shooter showed up and started to shoot against the boat. Some girls tried to hide in the water behind the boat. When we reached land, police stood on the bridge and we thought it perhaps was another false police. When we saw his helmet and all his equipment we realized it was an authentic police and we felt safer,” Aasbo said.
By the time Norwegian anti-terror forces arrived on the island in helicopters, it had turned into a horrific site with dead bodies scattered around the island and in the water. Although an obscure Islamist group first claimed responsibility, a very different pictured emerged after the shooter was finally caught.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg, who was due to visit the camp today, addressed the nation in an emotional speech.
“Escape, blood and death. This is like a nightmare. In a few hours I was supposed to be at Utoya island to talk to the teenagers. Many of them are no longer alive. Utoya is my youth paradise, which has now turned into a hell. I know teenagers who died. I know their parents. Many still work to save lives. We have an open and safe society and we need to protect that,” he said.
“What is real gruesome is the picture that is now emerging. How a young man, who portrays himself as a Christian, planned this deed and carried it out step by step. He went to the heart of our capital with a huge bomb that he placed it in the very center of the political area. Then he went to the island where he had a boat that he used to reach the island. There he massacred some 100 people and counting, in a cold-blooded act. The police have heard him and the questioning continues. He may face a life in prison,” said Magnus Verke, a commentator of Norwegian State Television.
“Norway will never be the same. This is a terrible milestone in our nation’s history. If this turns out to be a one-man act it seems like this may be something that is impossible for a society to seek shelter from,” he added.
Seven were reportedly killed in the bomb blast, bringing the number of dead to 91. More teenagers are still missing and presumed dead in the island's forest or along its beaches. Another 30 are being treated at hospitals with serious and, in many cases, life-threatening injuries.
Breivik had spent most of his life living in a downtown apartment in central Oslo, neighbors said.
“He lived on the first floor with his mum, we lived on the fourth floor. We passed him several times and said hi. I know that he was interested in computers. I never noticed that he behaved strange. This is shocking. The mother is so nice”, said Terje Tingbo, a neighbor.
On his Facebook site, the 32-year-old labels himself as a Christian conservative who is a CEO and runs a company. He says on the site that he studied finance at Oslo’s Business High School and that he enjoys the computer game World of Warcraft as well as the TV series "True Blood." He is single and enjoys hunting, literature, classical music and is a fan of Winston Churchill.
On July 17 he posted his only Twitter comment, a quote by the British philosopher John Stuart Mill, “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests”, he wrote.
In recent years Breivik has been active on anti-Islamic websites where he stressed that he supported nationalism and criticized multicultural societies. He stressed that Scandinavian media was not critical enough of Islam.
The 32-year old, who besides a minor traffic incident some 10 years ago has no criminal record, also wrote that his favorite TV series is "Dexter," a CBS drama about a police officer and bloodstain pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer.
Breivik reportedly moved out of his apartment just two weeks ago, to a small village outside Oslo. On Friday he returned to the capital, police said, armed with bombs and automatic rifles, committing the worst mass murder Scandinavia has seen in modern times.