Anders Behring Breivik’s killing spree could have been curtailed by police, says report
Norwegian police could have prevented or interrupted the bomb and gun attacks by a far-right fanatic who killed 77 people last year, a government-appointed commission said yesterday.
The long-awaited report into the attacks, on 22 July, 2011, also said the domestic intelligence service could have done more to track down the gunman, but stopped short of saying it could have stopped him.
Anders Behring Breivik, 33, has admitted bombing the government’s headquarters in Oslo, which killed eight people, and the subsequent shooting spree at a youth camp that left 69 dead, more than half of them teenagers. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
While noting that the attacks “may be the most shocking and incomprehensible acts ever experienced in Norway,” the 500-page report said the bombing “could have been prevented” if already adopted security measures had been implemented more effectively.
Breivik was able to park a van with a fertiliser bomb just outside the high-rise building, then drove another car to the Labour Party’s youth camp on Utoya.
The report said that a car bomb at the government complex and several co-ordinated attacks “have been recurring scenarios in threat assessments as well as for safety analyses and exercise scenarios for many years”.
Plans to close off the street in front of the government building were approved in 2010, but work on constructing barriers had not been completed and no temporary obstacles had been set up. A parking ban in the area was also not strictly enforced.
The report said the police response to the incident was slowed by a series of blunders, including flaws in communication systems and the breakdown of an overloaded boat carrying a police anti-terrorist unit.
Meanwhile, Norway’s only police helicopter was left unused, as its crew were on holiday. Breivik’s shooting spree lasted for more than an hour before he surrendered to police.
The report also gave details of a phone-call made by a pedestrian ten minutes after the Oslo bomb went off, giving police a good description of a man carrying a pistol and wearing protective clothing.
The operator passed the message on but the tip-off was not followed up for about two hours, the report says.
Breivik drove to Utoya island unhindered.
The report said a faster police response could have stopped Breivik’s shooting spree earlier, but recognised that “hardly anyone could have imagined” the attack on Utoya.
“Sadly, however, after repeated school massacres in other countries, an armed desperado who shoots adolescents is indeed conceivable – also in Norway,” it added.
As early as 5:25pm local time, shootings were reported on Utoya. The first local police patrol arrived 30 minutes later, the report said, but the two officers who responded did not try to find a civilian boat to travel to the island immediately.
An 11-strong elite Delta force team from Oslo arrived 14 minutes later, according to the inquiry. But they were forced to abandon their own overloaded dinghy for two civilian boats.
Prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said he held the ultimate responsibility for the way public authorities responded to the attacks, but he evaded reporters’ questions about whether he had considered stepping down.
Mr Stoltenberg said: “It took too long to arrest the perpetrator. Police could have reached Utoya faster. These are circumstances I deeply regret.”
The justice minister and the head of the Norwegian security service have already been replaced since the attacks.
Breivik admitted the attacks, but rejected criminal guilt during his trial, saying his victims had betrayed their country by embracing a multicultural society.
Prosecutors have said there were doubts about his sanity and suggested Breivik be committed to compulsory psychiatric care instead of prison. A ruling is set for 24 August.
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