Norway intel ‘couldn’t have stopped attacks’

Norway's intelligence agency said on Friday it would not have been able to stop the gunman who killed 77 people in twin attacks last year even if it had pursued a tip that he had bought chemicals to make a bomb.

The intelligence service PST has been widely criticised for failing to prevent the July bombing and shooting massacre committed by 33-year-old right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

"We would not have uncovered Behring Breivik's plans if we had investigated the information in an ordinary way. It is not illegal to buy these chemicals," PST acting director Roger Berg told reporters.

PST had received from Norwegian customs a list of names, including that of Behring Breivik, who had bought chemical products online that could be used to make bombs.

But the agency did not follow up on the information because Behring Breivik, who actively expressed anti-Islamic and anti-immigration remarks online, was not listed in its files.

"Even if we had prioritised the investigation our search would not have given any new information about Behring Breivik," Berg insisted.

"He was, in our view, a solo terrorist… He planned his terror acts alone for several years and he was extremely careful," he said.

Berg's comments came as he presented a PST evaluation report of its handling of the attacks.

On July 22nd, Behring Breivik, who has claimed to be on a crusade against multi-culturalism and the "Muslim invasion" of Europe, set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people.

He then went to the island of Utøya north-west of Oslo, and, dressed as a police officer, spent more than an hour shooting and killing another 69 people, mainly teenagers, attending a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labour Party's youth wing.

Berg said he "regretted" his agency was unable to stop Behring Breivik.

On Thursday, Norwegian police apologised for failing to stop Behring Breivik's shooting rampage sooner, admitting that lives were lost as a result and listing a slew of areas where police efforts had not worked effectively.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Kongsberg attacker killed victims with ‘sharp object’

Norwegian police said Monday that the five victims of last week's attack were killed by a "sharp object" used by the suspect, not a bow and arrows.

The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident.
The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen on Flickr.

“At some point he discarded or lost his bow and arrows,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters.

He said that during the attack on Wednesday the suspect killed “five people with a sharp object both in private addresses and in public spaces”.

Police, who had previously said that the suspect Espen Andersen Brathen was armed with a bow and arrows and two other weapons, did not specify the nature of the sharp weapons, adding that they were still interviewing witnesses.

“Everything points to the victims being selected at random,” Omholt said.

According to the police, more than 10 people were also shot at with arrows at the start of the attack, but none were killed with this weapon.

READ MORE: Norway police query Kongsberg attacker’s Muslim faith

During police questioning, Brathen has confessed to the killings and to wounding three others.

The 37-year-old Danish citizen has announced publicly that he is a convert to Islam and initially police reported that there had been fears of radicalisation.

He is however being kept in a medical facility pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” Omholt added.

On Saturday, police announced the identities of the five victims, four women and one man: Andrea Meyer, 52, Hanne Merethe Englund, 56, Liv Berit Borge, 75, Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75 and Gun Marith Madsen, 78.