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Norway Reels as Death Toll Rises From Day of Unexplained Horror

July 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: At least 17 people were killed today in two terror attacks in Norway. An official said the total could go higher. So far, one person, a Norwegian man, has been arrested.

In the first attack, a bomb exploded outside government buildings in Oslo, where at least seven people died. Officials said 10 more were killed in the second attack, on a nearby island, when a gunman opened fire at a youth camp.

We begin with a report narrated by Bill Neely of Independent Television News. His story has some distressing images.

BILL NEELY: Fear in his voice, death on the streets of Oslo.

Anywhere, this scene would be shocking. In peaceful Norway, it is stunning. But for Norway, there was more horror to come — on a peaceful island near the capital, the scene of a massacre, the bodies of more than a dozen people motionless on the shore, a double mass murder, connected, say police. But who did this?

This is just minutes after the explosion in the very heart of the capital. There’s been a bomb, but no one you’re seeing knows where it came from or what might happen next. This is the very heart of Norway’s political life, government buildings, newspaper offices. There’s glass and rubble everywhere and shop survivors who think there might be a second bomb.

AYESHA WOLASMAL, eyewitness: The buildings were on fire. It was complete chaos in the streets. We saw injured people being carried out of the buildings. We saw some injured and bloody people walking themselves.

BILL NEELY: Norway police say seven people were killed here. Hospitals report more than 100 walking wounded. The prime minister’s office is also here, though he was not.

As police were dealing with this, news came through from this island, Utoya, near Oslo. There were panicked phone calls from this campsite, where hundreds of young people had gathered for a weekend organized by the ruling Labor Party. A gunman with a bulletproof jacket had opened fire.

BJORN JARLE RODBERG LARSEN, Norwegian Labor Party: When a policeman showed up at the boat going to the island, telling that he was part of the security system that take care of the security on the island, people accepted that. But only a few minutes after he had come to the island, he took out a handgun and started to — to shoot.

BILL NEELY: This was the scene not long ago, police marksmen arriving by boat, not far from them, a scene of carnage, the bodies of young people scattered on the shore, no signs of movement. In the water, people are swimming for their lives.

KRISTINE MELBY, resident: Some of them, you could see really clearly where the bullets had gone in. Some of the wounds were really, really, really big. Some of them had — you know, they had been running for their lives. They had their — their bones broken. Some of them, you know, they were full of blood and — and dirt.

BILL NEELY: This was the youth camp last year, Norway’s prime minister visiting. He was due at the camp tomorrow to give a speech.

This was the youth camp just yesterday, these young people the targets of an attack that has come out of the blue on a sunny summer’s day, a day of horror, so far unexplained.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama extended his condolences to Norwegians today, and offered American assistance with the investigation.