Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Norway Attacks Called Worst Since World War II

SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Ninety-two people are confirmed dead in yesterday's two terrorist attacks in Norway. The carnage is described as the worst in that peaceful country since World War II. The first attack was a bomb that ripped through a building in Oslo, where the prime minister has his office. That killed seven people. Then a gunman stalked a camp for young members of Norway's ruling Labor Party and killed at least 85 people.

H.M. PRACKEN: When I were swimming back to the shore, when I left the group who continued to swim, he started shooting at them. He saw I was almost at the shore and he pointed the barrel at me. At that time, I yelled, I cried, no, please, no. He spared my life but it was really frightening.

SIMON: That's one of the campers, H.M. Pracken speaking to the BBC. Now, the attack followed a bombing in Oslo that ripped through the building that houses the prime minister's office. Seven people were killed there. Police have detained a suspect whom they say figured in both attacks. Halvard Sandberg is a reporter for NRK, the Norwegian broadcasting corporation. We reached him on Utoya Island, the site of the shooting attack, and asked him what's known about the alleged gunman.

HALVARD SANDBERG: He is a 32-year-old Norwegian male, blue eyes, blond hair, from a good part of the town. His Facebook page and the discussions he had on the net shows that his views were extreme right-wing. He had this belief that it was impossible to have a multicultural Norway, and people from Muslim countries were destroying Norway. That was his belief. Some months ago, he bought six tons of fertilizer and he made a bomb.

SIMON: And police say that he's responsible for both attacks?

SANDBERG: Yes. He was observed close to the bomb in town and he's the one that they caught here in Utoya Island. But the police also fear that there's another person that was part of this attack.

SIMON: But how did he get to Utoya Island and how is it that so many people died on that island?

SANDBERG: It was a summer camp for the youth movement of the ruling Labor Party. They are easy targets because they're locked on this island. And he came to the ferry point dressed in a police uniform and said that since there have been a big explosion in Oslo then he had to check the security of the island. They believed him and he went to the island and then he started to shoot. And he was hunting them on the island. I spoke to some witnesses that has seen youngsters trying to hide by the waterside and the gunman came towards them and fired point-blank at them with a machine pistol - do-to-do-to-to - while they were lying in the watersheds.

SIMON: Mr. Sandberg, a lot of people are wondering this morning why reportedly it took police more than an hour to get to the island.

SANDBERG: All available police resources were in use because of this bomb blast in our capital. And then these messages that came in that there was firing in Utoya, even we in the press who didn't really believe. And also when you have gunmen firing with heavy weapons, you have to be organized before you go in.

SIMON: What kind of rescue and search operations are continuing there?

SANDBERG: We have still work that's being done in Oslo. They are searching these buildings that's been damaged by the blast, and the big operation now is searching for casualties in the sea close to this island. At the same time, there's operation going on to identify the victims, the dead youngsters and telling their parents, because the parents here and are waiting for word. Not all the parents know if their child is alive or dead yet.

SIMON: Mr. Sandberg, any country would be rocked by this, but Norway's been so peaceful. What's the public reaction been?

SANDBERG: It's outrage. And I think also a common topic of conversation in Norway now. This person, he will be convicted to the harshest penalty that we can give him, which is 21 years in prison. That means that he is out after 16 years; he might out after 14 years, and then he will be a free man and he killed so many. We don't have laws that could weigh up a penalty for what he's done.

SIMON: Halvard Sandberg of the Norwegian broadcasting corporation speaking to us from Utoya Island, the scene of yesterday's massacre at a youth camp. Thank you, sir.

SANDBERG: OK. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.