Police in Norway Extend Terror Probe Across Europe After Breivik Attacks
Norway’s police are contacting their counterparts across Europe as they step up the investigation into last week’s twin attacks on Oslo and Utoeya island that killed at least 76 people.
Norwegian authorities asked the Czech police to help in the probe into the attacks by Anders Behring Breivik, police spokesman Jan Melsa said by phone from Prague. The authorities in Luxembourg are also cooperating with Norway, according to a government statement, as are the U.K. intelligence services, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said. Breivik has been charged with two counts of terrorism.
“That’s been part of the investigation so far: to speak with intelligence services in different countries, especially in Europe,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Oslo today. The probe is looking into “whether there are any links between the man that is arrested in Norway and any groups in other countries.”
Breivik wrote in a manifesto published before the attacks, the deadliest in Norway since World War II, that he’d been in contact with the English Defense League, which says it campaigns against Islamic extremism, and other groups across Europe. U.K. police are looking into possible links between British and Norwegian extremist groups, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said July 25.
‘Greatest Possible Loss’
Breivik, 32, began eight weeks of pre-trial detention yesterday after admitting to carrying out the mass shooting on Utoeya and car-bombing in Oslo’s government district. He said he intended to inflict the “greatest possible loss” on the ruling Labor Party and halt what he sees as the “Islamization” of Norway and Europe. Police said they may seek to bring the country’s first charge of crimes against humanity against Breivik, with a maximum sentence of 30 years.
The suspect was ordered to spend four weeks in isolation to avoid all chance of contact with potential accomplices. Breivik, who earlier said he acted alone, told those questioning him there were “two cells in Norway and several cells around Europe and the Western world,” Geir Lippestad, his defense lawyer, said in an interview yesterday.
“There is nothing that points to new cells as far as we know,” Siv Alsen, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian Police Security Service, said by phone today. “What we are of course investigating is if there are.”
“We can categorically state that there has never been any official contact between him and the EDL,” the group, created in June 2009, said in a statement on its website on July 24. “Our Facebook page had 100,000 supporters and receives tens of thousands of comments each day. There is no evidence that Breivik was ever one of those 100,000 supporters.”
The EDL said “anyone who expresses any extremist beliefs of any kind” is banned from its site.
In the 1,500-page English-language manifesto posted on the Internet hours before the killings, Breivik described nine years of planning for the attacks, which he said would form part of a crusade against “cultural Marxism” and rising “Islamization.” He began writing it while he was still a member of Norway’s opposition Progress Party.
Breivik referred to the EDL throughout the manifesto and wrote of assistance from “brothers and sisters in England, France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, the U.S. etc.”
‘Names From Facebook’
The suspect e-mailed the manifesto to more than 1,000 people less than 1 1/2 hours before the bomb attack, Tanguy Veys, a lawmaker from the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang party in Belgium, one of the recipients, said on his Twitter account.
“He sent it to as many people as possible because he wanted someone to distribute this book after he was dead, because he thought he would be killed by the police,” Norwegian parliamentarian Jan Simonsen, another recipient, said by phone today. “He said that he got the names from Facebook.”
Armed with a pistol and semi-automatic rifle, Breivik killed 68 people at the island camp, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Oslo. He killed eight more in a car-bombing earlier that day in the government district of the capital. The search for victims is still continuing in the waters around Utoeya.
“This whole case has indicated that he’s insane,” Lippestad said yesterday. Even so, “we still have to see the medical reports.” Breivik said he took drugs to boost his strength and stamina in the attacks, Lippestad said.
Judge Kim Heger told reporters on July 25 that while Breivik admitted to the dual attacks, he did not plead guilty.
“The operation was not intended to kill as many people as possible, but to give ‘a sharp signal’ to the people that can’t be misunderstood,” Heger cited Breivik as saying in court. “As long as the Labor Party follows its ideological line and continues to deconstruct Norwegian culture and import Muslims en masse they must take responsibility for this treason.”
If convicted on the two counts he’s been charged with, Breivik could receive a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison, Norway’s toughest punishment for such a crime. Police said they might seek to charge Breivik with crimes against humanity, a law that has never been applied in Norway.
Once Breivik has served his sentence, prosecutors could ask that he remain incarcerated on the grounds that he might commit another violent crime. Breivik would then need to be retried every five years, according to police spokeswoman Carol Sandbye.
Norwegian authorities will step up monitoring of extreme right-wing groups as a result of the attacks, Justice Minister Knut Storberget said yesterday.
“I view this case as so grotesque and so particular that it would be odd not to be concerned at any given time that others might get the same ideas,” he said.
The Norwegian Police Security Service had not placed Breivik on a watch list or under surveillance after his name appeared on an Interpol list of individuals who purchased chemicals over the Internet, according to Alsen.
“The purpose was not to look at the people who were buying these chemicals, but to look at the companies that were selling,” Alsen said yesterday. “There was no reason for further investigation.”
Polish police are questioning the owner of a company that sold legal chemicals to Breivik, Pawel Bialek, deputy head of the country’s internal security agency, said earlier this week.
Breivik bought 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of aluminum in 2010 at a Schenker terminal in Karlstad, Sweden, the newspaper Goeteborgs-Posten reported yesterday, citing Schenker spokesman Pierre Olsson. Breivik collected the aluminum and drove it back to Oslo, Olsson told the newspaper.
Breivik wrote in his manifesto wrote that he’d ordered “aluminum powder,” which when “mixed with ammonium nitrate will increase tertiary-charge sensitivity and increase demolition power by approximately 10-30 percent.”
Oslo police remain on high alert and the capital’s central station was briefly evacuated this morning after a suspicious suitcase was found on a bus. The station was reopened after nothing was found, according to train operator NSB.
The authorities do not have an estimate for the costs incurred from the attacks and no decision has been made on whether to tear down or repair the damaged government buildings, Stoltenberg said today.
“There is no estimate yet as we are not able to check the extent of the damage,” Frode Jacobsen, head of communications at the Ministry of Government, Administration, Reform and Church Affairs said by phone. “We are talking about 2,000 people that need to have a temporary location and we have to rebuild or fix the buildings.”
The oil, trade, justice, labor and health ministries and Stoltenberg’s office were worst hit and have been relocated, Jacobsen said.
Stoltenberg also announced today that the government had established an independent commission to review “all aspects” of the attacks on Oslo and Utoeya.
“I want to emphasize that this is not an inquiry, because we have great respect for the work personnel have performed -- the emergency services, police and many others,” Stoltenberg said. “But it is important that we have a full review of what has happened.”
The police said separately they would start an investigation in November into how the operation at Utoeya was handled, after coming under criticism for taking an hour to reach the island after being told of the shootings.
Magne Rustad, chief of staff of Nordre Buskerud police district, said that while the first boat police tried to use to get to the island encountered engine problems, it did not delay the operation.
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