OSLO: Norwegian police searched for more victims and a possible second gunman on Saturday after a suspected right-wing zealot killed almost 100 people in a shooting spree and bomb attack that have traumatised a once-placid country.
Police said 85 people were known to have died in the shooting at an idyllic island near Oslo and seven in the bomb blast near the prime minister’s office. The overall death toll could reach 98 if some missing people proved to have died.
The bloodbath was believed to be the deadliest attack by a lone gunman anywhere in modern times. It was also Norway’s worst violence since World War Two.
The suspect described himself as a fundamentalist Christian, said police, as evidence emerged that he had flirted with the political far-right.
“He has certain political traits that lean to the right and are anti-Muslim, but it is too early to say if that was the motive for his actions,” police chief Sevinung Sponheim told a television channel.
Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, was arrested after Friday’s massacre of young people on a tiny forested holiday island that was hosting the annual summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s ruling Labour Party.
Breivik was also charged for the bombing of Oslo’s government district that killed seven people hours earlier.
If convicted on the terrorism charges, he would face a maximum of 21 years in jail, police said.
Breivik had belonged to an anti-immigration party and wrote blogs attacking multi-culturalism and Islam, but police said he had been unknown to them and that his Internet activity traced so far included no calls for violence.
Witnesses said the gunman, wearing a police uniform, went on a 90-minute shooting orgy on Utoeya island northwest of Oslo, picking off his prey unchallenged as youngsters scattered in panic or jumped in the lake to swim for the mainland.
A police team eventually arrived from Oslo, 30kms away, to seize Breivik after nearly 90 minutes of firing, the police chief told a news conference.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, sharing the shocked mood in this normally safe, quiet country of 4.8 million people, said: “A paradise island has been transformed into a hell.”
Labour Party youth member Erik Kursetgjerde described the panic on Utoeya when the gunman began shooting.
“I heard screams. I heard people begging for their lives and I heard shots. He just blew them away. I was certain I was going to die,” Kursetgjerde, 18, said outside a hotel in Sundvollen.—Agencies