Oslo Shooter Anti-Muslim Christian Extremist
The death toll in Norway’s deadliest day of terrorism is up to 91. The man behind it, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, is a frequent poster of anti-Muslim screeds on Christian fundamentalist websites.
AP (“91 killed in Norway island massacre, capital blast“):
A Norwegian dressed as a police officer gunned down at least 84 people at an island youth retreat before being arrested, police said Saturday. Investigators are still searching the surrounding waters, where people fled the attack, which followed an explosion in nearby Oslo that killed seven.
The mass shootings are among the worst in history. With the blast outside the prime minister’s office, they formed the deadliest day of terror in Western Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings killed 191.
Police official Roger Andresen told reporters that the total death toll was now 91 and that a suspect was in custody being questioned for both assaults and is cooperating with the investigators.
Though police did not release his name, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK identified him as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik and said police searched his Oslo apartment overnight. NRK and other Norwegian media posted pictures of the blond, blue-eyed Norwegian.
“He is clear on the point that he wants to explain himself,” Roger Andresen told reporters Saturday.
National police chief Sveinung Sponheim told NRK that the suspected gunman’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but whether that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.”
Andersen said the suspect posted on websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies. He did not describe the websites in any more details.
A police official said the suspect appears to have acted alone in both attacks, and that “it seems like this is not linked to any international terrorist organizations at all.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that information had not been officially released by Norway’s police.
“It seems it’s not Islamic-terror related,” the official said. “This seems like a madman’s work.”
Multiple reports say the police believe Breivik is “linked” to the bombing as well as being the perpetrator of the shooting. “The police have every reason to believe there is a connection between the explosions and what happened at Utoya,” the police said. Indeed, he appears to have used the bombing to set up the massacre: “He travelled on the ferry boat from the mainland over to that little inland island posing as a police officer, saying he was there to do research in connection with the bomb blasts,” NRK journalist Ole Torp told the BBC.
While following and passing along bits of information on the breaking story yesterday on Twitter, I was taken to task by some for being too credulous and unwilling to definitively assert that al Qaeda or other Islamist terrorists were behind the attacks. As it turns out, I was actually too forward leaning in defending that as the obvious working assumption.
Breaking news and instant analysis are a bad combination. They’re also an occupational hazard of journalism and punditry.
I still recall the panicked speculation on the live coverage of the aftermath of the assassination attempt of President Reagan 30 years ago, including erroneous report—repeated on all three of the American broadcast networks–that White House press secretary James Brady had died from his wounds. ABC News anchor Frank Reynolds, a close friend of Brady’s, had to report both the death and the error. Upon getting the welcome news, a visibly upset Reynolds exclaimed, “Let’s get it nailed down…somebody…let’s find out! Let’s get it straight so we can report this thing accurately!”
When tragedies are unfolding and information is scant, however, the incentives are to get as much information out as fast as possible, even if much of it is inaccurate. And as much air time as possible is filled with “experts,” whose expertise is often tangentially related to the crisis and are hamstrung by the need for rampant speculation, to do instant analysis. The inevitable result is that they will fall into their comfort zone, analyzing by drawing analogies with past events that have some similarities.
We’ve now shifted from “this is Norway’s 9/11” to “this is Norway’s Oklahoma City.”
The investigators still don’t have complete information about this monstrous crime and they’re almost certainly not sharing everything they have with us. But, if the Oklahoma City analogy holds up, it would be fitting in one respect: The instant analysis in Oklahoma City was that it was the work of Islamist groups. While a natural assumption two years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, it was completely wrong.
Photo credit: Reuters Pictures.