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Centre of Oslo after the 22 July 2011 carbomb attack

Norwegian police's slow response to Breivik attack

(Photo: N. Andersen/Keanu4)

Norwegian police's slow response to Breivik attack

Norway police could have prevented the bomb attack by Anders Breivik in the centre of Oslo last year, and could have arrested him sooner, an investigation has revealed.

An independent investigative committee published its report on Monday. It concluded that the bomb attack, which killed 8 people and injured 209, could have been prevented if existing security measures had been implemented effectively. "The building had been designated a security risk years ago, but squabbling over details led to nothing being done to protect it," the committee said.

About Breivik's subsequent attack later that same day on a Socialist youth camp on the island of Utoya the report says that "police could have acted faster. The attacker could have been stopped earlier in the day." In that case fewer people would have been killed. The Utoya shooting spree cost 69 lives; 110 people were injured. Norwegian media say that the report blames the Norwegian government for "failing to protect the people on Utoya".

Immediately after the attacks Norwegian police were criticised for not using a helicopter to get to the island when the alarm was raised, but "clumsily" tried to get to the island in an inflatably dinghy.

Public opinion and media also wondered why the intelligence services had not managed to track Breivik sooner and why he was not monitored before he committed his attacks.

The report's answer is that Breivik would not necessarily have been prevented from planning and preparing his attacks. There was "no reason" to conclude that Norway's intelligence services could or should have prevented the multiple attack.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway has reacted to the report, saying that he takes full responsability, but that he will not step down. Stoltenberg said he wants to do whatever he can to make Norway even safer than it is. He acknowledged, however, that it took too long before Breivik was captured.

Immediately after the 22 July attacks the Justice minister and the head of national security stepped down. No police officials have resigned, but maybe some will step down after all, now that the committee's findings have been published.

The trial against Breivik began in June, and a verdict is expected around 24 August. The central question is whether the court considers Breivik of sound mind. From the outset Breivik admitted to the attacks in Oslo and Utoya, but he pleaded not guilty. He claimed he killed "out of necessity".

He motivated his attacks by saying that the government, and particularly the social-democratic party of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, are too tolerant of Islam and immigrants. This has sparked a public debate about the significance of tolerance and democracy in Norway.

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