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Jul 22, 2011 | 19:36 GMT

Norway: Update on Explosion, Shooting

BERIT ROALD/AFP/Getty Images
An explosion took place in the government district in central Oslo on the afternoon of July 22. Police thus far have reported that the blast killed at least seven individuals and injured 15 others. Norwegian media are also reporting that at least one gunman dressed as a police officer began shooting at a Labor Youth League summer camp in Utoya, an island outside of Oslo. Details on the shooting are scarce, but as many as four people have been reported dead. Witness estimates say there could be many more, though these estimates are unreliable. Norwegian police have arrested the shooter and believe that he is connected with the explosion. This connection is likely, given that the shooting occurred within two hours of explosion and that Utoya is located within a one-hour drive of the bomb site. Furthermore, the government building near the site of the explosion housed the prime minister's office, and the prime minister was scheduled to be at the Labor Youth League camp July 23. Notably, there could have been any number of targets for the explosive device. (click here to enlarge image) The downtown blast blew out most of the windows and caused some light structural damage to the Oil and Energy Department building and the building that houses the prime minister's office, with the energy department building catching fire, according to reports. Police told Norwegian daily Dagbladet that a large automobile is believed to have driven up to the government building just before the explosion occurred. This, along with picture and video evidence, means that the attack could have well been a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). If a VBIED was used, that the buildings remained intact suggests good standoff distance through vehicle barriers, which may have forced the vehicle to remain in the street. Indeed, there is a crater in the street between the two buildings, which is the probable blast seat. Despite the widespread, albeit largely superficial, structural damage, the death toll from the explosion appears to be low. This is likely because July 22 was a local holiday in Norway. Fewer people on the streets and in the buildings means fewer people were at risk of sustaining injuries from the blast debris, such as shards of glass. Indeed, the small number of individuals on the scene in the aftermath of the explosion supports this. Norway's participation in international missions in Afghanistan and Libya could be motivation for jihadist or pro-Gadhafi terrorist attacks against the Norwegian government. Also, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, which has offices near the blast site, has received terrorist threats in the past for reposting Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. While Aftenposten's offices were not affected, the building housing Verdens Gang, a Norwegian newspaper that did not publish the cartoon, was damaged. In February, Norwegian intelligence warned that small groups of extremists posed a threat to the country's security. In July 2010, Norway arrested three suspected jihadists for plotting attacks. And earlier in the week, a Norwegian prosecutor filed terrorism charges against an Iraqi-born cleric and founder of a Kurdish Islamist group who had threatened to kill Norwegian politicians if he was deported from the country. There are many potential motivations for these attacks, from domestic political violence to international jihadists. None of these possibilities can be ruled out at this time.
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Norway: Update on Explosion, Shooting
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