Norway survivors describe fleeing ‘calm and controlled’ gunman; death toll hits 92
Norwegian police said Saturday that the death toll from Friday’s attacks has risen to 92 and confirmed that they have arrested a suspect whom they described as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.
In a news conference Saturday morning in Oslo, police confirmed that they had arrested Anders Behring Breivik, 32, on suspicion of orchestrating both the Oslo bombing and the youth-camp shooting rampage and had begun searching two apartments that he owns.
Breivik reportedly owns four properties including a farm on the outskirts of Oslo, allegedly to enable him to store legally a large amount of fertilizer.
Police would not comment on whether he acted alone but said no other arrests have been made. They said Breivik had no criminal record.
They would not speculate on his motives, but said, based own his own Twitter and Facebook accounts, he appeared to be a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.
Police say he was arrested by security forces at the Labor Party youth camp on the island of Utoya after the shootings. They said 84 people were killed on the island. At least seven were killed in the Oslo bombing.
Police Chief Oystein Maeland told reporters that they could not confirm the number of victims would stop at 92, adding that the attack had reached “catastrophic dimensions.”
He said officers were still “looking in the water around the island for more victims.”
Media reports say the gunman apparently used a handgun and a machine gun, and that police arrived at the island possibly 90 minutes after the shooting started. At midmorning Saturday, police were still searching the island for more bodies.
One wounded survivor, Adrian Pracon, described the gunman as “calm and controlled,” shooting people who tried to escape the island by swimming to the mainland.
Pracon told BBC news that he saw two people approach the gunman, “and two seconds later they were both shot.”
He said the gunman “looked like Nazi to me because of the hair ... and he was also very, very calm and controlled and sure about what he was doing.”
Pracon described his attempt to escape. “We started running down to the water and people had already undressed and started swimming.”
Pracon said he began swimming, but “after 150 meters ... I realized I wouldn’t make it so I went back and saw him standing 10 meters from me shooting at the people who tried to swim over.”
“He aimed the gun at me and I screamed at him ‘No, please no.’ I don’t know if he listened to me.”
Pracon said the gunman returned an hour later. “The shooting started and people were falling beside me, they were falling on top of me, falling injured into the water, so I just had to shield myself behind them and pray he wouldn’t see me, and that’s when he shot. I could feel his boots, I could feel the warmth of the barrel.”
Others described being chased. “The man with the gun was running behind us, chasing us,” said youth leader Lisa Marie Husby, who told BBC radio how she and 50 or 60 others ran to a cabin where she hid under a bed as the gunman shot through the door trying to get in.
When he went away, they heard more shooting: “I think I was under the bed for two to three hours, then we heard the helicopters and the police came.”
Police said Breivik will face terrorism charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 21 years.
During a separate news conference, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he had been personally involved in the Labor Party camp during his youth, and praised the fact that participants were able to exchange strong political views freely and without fear.
He called it a “childhood paradise” that “was turned into hell.” He said he had been scheduled to visit the island today to address the youths.
Stoltenberg told reporters that some members of government had lost their lives in the bombing, but he could not confirm their identities. “We have a picture of the victims, but it is too early to say,” he said.
He said Norwegians should not let the tragedy lead them to change their open society.
“It’s this quality of life that has been abused and attacked. We must work hard to protect this so we don’t lose that quality. This is what we have to resist.”
He said the death toll was the highest in a single day in Norway since World War II.
Stoltenberg added that he will convene government ministers later today to discuss how to handle the crisis. Soldiers have been deployed throughout Oslo to assist police and protect government institutions.
He would not speculate on the suspect’s motives, but said right-wing extremism has not been a serious issue before.
“Compared to other countries, I would not say that we have a big problem with right-wing extremism in Norway,” he said. “But we have had some groups and we have followed them before.”