|Aftermath of the car bombing in Oslo, Norway. Reuters photograph.|
A large explosion in downtown Oslo today has killed at least seven people and injured scores more. The massive blast, which was caused by at least one bomb, blew out windows at several government buildings and triggered an evacuation of the area, according to The Associated Press. A “prominent jihadist” commented on today’s attack at an al Qaeda-linked forum, and said it was carried out to punish Norway for deploying troops to Afghanistan.
In a related development, the Telegraph reports that on the island of Utoeya, northwest of Oslo, a gunman dressed as a policeman shot and killed at least 20 people attending the annual youth camp for the Labor party, the political party of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. One witness claimed 20 to 25 people may have been killed in the shooting. Police have arrested the shooter and claimed he was linked to the Oslo bombing, but have not released any details.
The explosion in Oslo, which occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon, heavily damaged the offices of the prime minister as well as those of a nearby newspaper and a news agency. Across the street, the Norwegian oil ministry building caught fire. The prime minister, who was working at home that day, was apparently unhurt. He has described the situation as “very serious,” according to the BBC, and asked that his location not be revealed.
The 17-story building housing the government offices as well as that of the Norwegian tabloid VG was on fire, and the ground floor is reported to be “completely gutted.” The Norwegian police have issued a statement saying that a “powerful explosion has taken place in the government quarter,” according to the Telegraph.
Norwegian police have confirmed that the explosion was caused by a bomb. The remains were visible of a car parked in front of one of the buildings. Speculation has arisen as to a delivery van that was parked nearby, reports The Foreigner. Some witnesses said there were multiple explosions, the Telegraph reported.
The attack may have involved more than one bomb. A spokesman for the National Police Directorate said that “[w]e think there was more than one blast,” the New York Times reported.
A witness said that “it must have been a bomb. People ran in panic… I counted at least 10 injured people,” Reuters reported.
Al Qaeda-linked terrorists quickly commented on today’s attack. Abu Suleiman al Nasser, who is described by the SITE Intelligence Group as a “prominent jihadist,” linked today’s attack to Norway’s deployment of forces in Afghanistan, and said the “mujahideen” were likely behind it. Nasser also said today’s attack was related to the December 2010 suicide attack in Stockholm, Sweden, that killed one person.
“Norway was targeted today to be a lesson and an example to the other countries of Europe,” Nasser said in a statement released on the al Qaeda-linked Shumukh al Islam forum, according to a translation provided by SITE. “Since the Stockholm invasion we had threatened more operations and we demanded that the countries of Europe withdraw their armies from the land of Afghanistan and stop their war on Islam and Muslims. We repeat our warning anew to the countries of Europe, and we say to them: carry out the demands of the mujahideen, because what you are seeing is merely the beginning, and what is coming is more.”
Another jihadist, who is known as Amir Grozny, said today’s attack was in retaliation for Norway’s deployment of troops to Afghanistan.
“You have moments to get your soldiers out of the tomb of Khorasan, else you will see blood flow in the streets,” Amir Grozny said in a post at the Shumukh al Islam forum, according to SITE.
Today’s attack takes place just nine days after Norwegian prosecutors filed charges against Mullah Krekar, a radical Islamist cleric who founded the al Qaeda-linked, Iraq based Ansar al Islam. Krakar threatened to carry out attacks against government officials if he was deported from Norway.
Also, on July 8, prosecutors sought to charge three men linked to al Qaeda for plotting terror attacks in Scandinavia. Mikael Davud, a Uighur, and Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, an Iraqi Kurd, both confessed to plotting attacks; the third suspect, David Jakobsen, an Uzbek, was released last year.
Today’s attack is the first on Norwegian soil since World War II. The country’s terror level has been raised, and citizens are being warned to stay away from central Oslo in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Police have since arrested Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian Christian extremist who has admitted to carrying out the attacks. Breivik does not have links to Islamist terror groups. For more information, see LWJ report, Norwegian police dismiss jihadist role in Oslo attacks.