As of noon eastern time it is too early to be certain of a homeland security link, but it is widely supposed the huge blast in Oslo is a terrorist action.
The blast was centered on a structure housing several government and commercial offices. Initial reports suggest offices of the Oil and Gas Ministry have also been hit, which may suggest more than one detonation.
The first rash of rumors is focused more on Gaddafi than al-Qaeda. Norway has supported NATO operations in Libya.
Norway has, however, also been on the al-Qaeda hit list. For example, in May 2003 Ayman Zawahiri, recently chosen as Osama bin-Laden’s successor, called for reprisals against Norway. “O Muslims, take matters firmly against the embassies of America, England, Australia, and Norway and their interests, companies, and employees… Wreak havoc on them. ”
Norwegian air force operations on behalf of NATO in December 2001 were implicated in the death of Zawahiri’s wife and three children in a bomb attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan. For more see the July 2010 piece in The Atlantic titled, “Why does al-Qaeda have a problem with Norway?”
A few hours after the blast in the Norwegian capital there was a report of a person dressed as a police officer firing several shots at a youth summer camp at Utøya, Norway. Sponsored by the Labour Party of Norway, the senior party in the current coalition government, about 560 young social democrats in their mid-teens are reported to be at the camp. Twitter and other messages from the camp report five campers have been shot. Other reports claim up to twenty have been shot. There is at least one report of 30 having been killed and more wounded.
A police spokesman is quoted by NRK, “It’s a political summer camp held there, and with what has happened in Oslo today, it is reasonable to believe that there is a connection.“
A suspected shooter has been arrested at Utoya and it is reported the same person was seen at the site of the bomb blasts in Oslo, less than twenty miles from the island on Lake Tyrifjorden. The suspect is reported to be tall, blond, and in his late twenties or early thirties.
The Norwegian State Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) is providing extensive coverage. Please access: www.nrk.no
The VG newspaper, whose offices were hit during the Oslo bombing, is also a good source: Please access: www.vg.no/
These are both breaking stories and, as we all know, reports can be confused in the immediate aftermath of such an event. I will be mostly offline for several hours after 1330 Eastern. If you see important updates please use the comment function to share.
UPDATE: 1524 Eastern Time
The Telegraph (London) is doing a great job feeding information as it happens. Please see:
UPDATE: 1539 Eastern Time
A terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or the Helpers of the Global Jihad, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, according to Will McCants, a terrorism analyst at C.N.A., a research institute that studies terrorism. The message said the attack was a response to Norwegian forces’ presence in Afghanistan and to unspecified insults to the Prophet Muhammad. “We have warned since the Stockholm raid of more operations,” the group said, according to Mr. McCants’ translation, apparently referring to a bombing in Sweden in December 2010. “What you see is only the beginning, and there is more to come.” The claim could not be confirmed. It is not uncommon for terrorist groups to advance claims of responsibility for high-profile attacks, only to have the claims prove to be spurious.
UPDATE: 1622 Eastern Time (last update for awhile)
Arnold Bogis reports in the comments:
Will McCants reports that the “Helpers” have retracted their statement. To follow McCants’ updates, he blogs at “jihadica.com” and you can follow his updates there:
And on his twitter account:
The Guardian (London) reports at 2107 British Time:
On Twitter runehak, who works for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, says:
News agency NTB says police do NOT think this is international terrorism. #osloexpl #oslobomb #whys
Nationen also writes police think its a local variant directed at the current political system. http://j.mp/o6QQSP #osloexpl #oslobomb #whys
UPDATE: 1937 Eastern Time
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting speculation by local experts that the bombing and mass shooting may be the work of a right-wing extremist and potentially a lone-wolf operation.
Both the Prime Minister and the National Police Chief have declined to speculate on the motivation of the alleged gunman arrested on Utoya island. The Justice Minister did confirm the suspect is Norwegian.
Professor Tore Bjørgo at the Police College said earlier tonight that these bloody attacks can come from other communities than Islamist… “I have consistently kept the possibility open that this might be the extreme-right.”…Bjørgo says that the action is reminiscent of a bomb attack in Oklahoma City in 1995, where the right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people by a powerful car bomb.
In its 2011 Threat Assessment the Norwegian Police Security Service reported:
Far-right extremists in Norway have only been slightly active in recent years. However, the trend that saw an increased level of activity in 2010 is expected to continue in 2011. Several players would like to revive the far-right extremist communities. However, the lack of strong leaders limits the growth of these groups.
There are indications of contact between Norwegian far-right extremists and organised criminal groups. This could give the far-right extremist groups easier access to weapons and thereby increase the potential for violence. While the need for a sense of belonging and the fascination with violence are often strong reasons why many young persons are recruited to far-right extremist groups, the ideology appears to be a secondary factor.
Norwegian far-right extremists are in contact with Swedish far-right extremists, as well as with other far-right extremist groups in Europe. Contact also takes place between Norwegian and Russian far-right extremists. The Russian groups are much more violent than other European groups and commit several scores of killings annually, mainly of ethnic minorities. They therefore have a high status within these extremist groups. Contact with Russian far-right extremists can contribute to an increased radicalisation and reduce the threshold for the use of violence by the Norwegian groups.