A Norwegian who dressed as a police officer to gun down summer campers killed at least 80 people at an island retreat, police said today.
It took investigators several hours to realise the full horror of yesterday’s massacre, which followed an explosion in nearby Oslo that killed seven, set off, police said, by the same suspect.
Police did not release his name, but Norwegian national broadcaster NRK identified said he was 32-year-old Anders Breivik and said officers searched his Oslo apartment overnight. NRK and other Norwegian media posted pictures of the blond, blue-eyed Norwegian.
Police said later that the suspect had right-wing and anti-Muslim views, but the motive for the attacks was unclear.
The mass shootings are among the worst in history. With the blast outside the prime minister’s office, they formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 191.
Police initially said about 10 were killed at the forested camp on the island of Utoya, but some survivors said they thought the toll was much higher. Early today police director Oystein Maeland said they had discovered many more victims.
“It’s taken time to search the area. What we know now is that we can say that there are at least 80 killed at Utoya,” Mr Maeland said. “It goes without saying that this gives dimensions to this incident that are exceptional.”
Mr Maeland warned that the death toll could rise and said others were severely injured.
A police official said the suspect appeared to have acted alone in both attacks and “it seems like that this is not linked to any international terrorist organisations at all”.
“This seems like a madman’s work,” he added.
The official said the attack “is probably more Norway’s Oklahoma City than it is Norway’s World Trade Centre”. Domestic terrorists carried out the 1995 attack on a US government building in Oklahoma City, while foreign terrorists were responsible for the September 11 2001 attacks.
Both attacks were in areas connected to the ruling Labour Party government. The youth camp, about 20 miles north west of Oslo, is organised by the party’s youth wing and the prime minister Jens Stoltenberg had been due to speak there today.
A 15-year-old camper named Elise said she heard gunshots, but then saw a police officer and thought she was safe. Then he started shooting people right before her eyes.
“I saw many dead people,” said Elise. “He first shot people on the island. Afterwards he started shooting people in the water.”
Elise said she hid behind the same rock that the killer was standing on. “I could hear his breathing from the top of the rock,” she said.
She said it was impossible to say how many minutes passed while she was waiting for him to stop.
At a hotel in the village of Sundvollen, where survivors of the shooting were taken, 21-year-old Dana Berzingi, wearing trousers stained with blood, said the fake police officer ordered people to come closer, then pulled weapons and ammunition from a bag and started shooting.
Several victims “had pretended as if they were dead to survive,” Mr Berzingi said. But after shooting the victims with one gun, the gunman shot them again in the head with a shotgun, he said.
“I lost several friends,” said Mr Berzingi, who used the mobile phone of one of those friends to call police.
The blast in Oslo, Norway’s capital and the city where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, left a square covered in twisted metal, shattered glass and documents expelled from surrounding buildings.
Most of the windows in the 20-floor high-rise where Mr Stoltenberg and his administration work were shattered. Other buildings damaged house government offices and the headquarters of some of Norway’s leading newspapers.
The dust-fogged scene after the blast reminded one visitor from New York of September 11.
Ian Dutton, who was in a nearby hotel, said people “just covered in rubble” were walking through “a fog of debris”.
“It wasn’t any sort of a panic. It was really just people in disbelief and shock, especially in a such as safe and open country as Norway. You don’t even think something like that is possible.”
Police said the Oslo explosion was caused by “one or more” bombs.
A police official, speaking anonymously, said the Oslo bombing occurred at 3.26pm local time (2.26pm BST), and the camp shootings began one to two hours later.
The official said the gunman used both automatic weapons and handguns, and that there was at least one unexploded device at the youth camp that a police bomb disposal team and military experts were working on disarming today.
The suspect had only a minor criminal record, the official said.
National police chief Sveinung Sponheim said seven people were killed by the blast in central Oslo, four of whom have been identified, and that nine or 10 people were seriously injured.
Mr Sponheim said a man was arrested in the shooting, and the suspect had been observed in Oslo before the explosion there.
He said the camp shooter “wore a sweater with a police sign on it. I can confirm that he wasn’t a police employee and never has been”.
Mr Sponheim told public broadcaster NRK that the suspected gunman's internet postings ``suggest that he has some political traits directed towards the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen''.
Mr Stoltenberg, who was home when the blast occurred and was not harmed, condemned the “cowardly attack on young innocent civilians”.
“I have message to those who attacked us,” he said. “It’s a message from all of Norway: You will not destroy our democracy and our commitment to a better world.”