The man responsible for Norway’s worst post-World War II atrocity signaled he may not have acted alone as police defended their handling of attacks that left 76 people dead.
Anders Behring Breivik began eight weeks of pre-trial detention today after he admitted to a shooting rampage and car bombing intended to inflict the “greatest possible loss” to 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, 32, who had earlier claimed that he acted alone in the attacks, told interrogators there were “two cells in Norway and several cells around Europe and the Western world,” Geir Lippestad, Breivik’s defense lawyer said in an interview.
“These are one-person cells he is talking about, so he is talking about two other persons,” Police Prosecutor Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said in an interview. “It is unlikely that they would have the determination and the funding and the time -- he has been planning this for a long time.”
Police Chief of Staff Johan Fredriksen said there was no evidence Breivik hadn’t acted alone.
Norway is struggling to comprehend the motives behind the July 22 twin attacks on Utoeya island and Oslo that have left the nation in mourning. More than 150,000 people gathered in front of the capital’s City Hall yesterday with roses in their hands as Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg urged them to engage in the democratic process and not give in to terror.
‘Go Through Everything’
The Labor leader earlier rebuffed suggestions that the police could have acted sooner to stop the carnage on Utoeya, where his party was holding a youth camp. Now is the time to comfort the relatives and friends of those killed and injured, and “afterward we will go through everything that happened,” he said in an interview on BBC World.
“It is very important that we have an open and critical approach to how all actors involved handle such a case,” Justice Minister Knut Storberget said outside Oslo Police Station today. “But I have to say that I think the police have done a very good job in this situation and handled the areas on which criticism has been raised very well so far.”
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 bomb blast earlier that day in the government district of the capital. Police yesterday revised down an earlier estimate of a total of 93 casualties. They plan to start making public the names of the victims at 6 p.m. local time in Norway.
Police have declined to say which type of gun he used for the attacks or how he acquired the weapons. In a 1,500-page manifesto posted online hours before the attacks, Breivik said that he made an application for a Glock 17 pistol and that he acquired a semi-automatic Ruger Mini 14. He also owned a Benelli Nova Pump-Action shotgun and a .308 Win bolt rifle, he said.
“This whole case has indicated that he’s insane,” lawyer Lippestad said today. 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 yesterday 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.”
Heger said that he approved a request by the prosecutor to hold a closed hearing out of concerns over safety and that Breivik may hinder the investigation by contacting possible accomplices. Breivik can receive no visits, nor send or receive letters for the entire eight-week period of his pre-trial detention, Heger said.
If convicted on the two counts of Acts of Terror he has 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 not been applied in Norway so far and which carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence.
Crimes Against Humanity
“At this point he is only charged for violation of the terrorism laws,” police spokesman Sturla Henriksbo said by phone. “In Norway, we recently introduced penal laws against ‘crimes against humanity’ and war crimes. They have never been used, but in relation to this incident the prosecution service will of course look through all the available laws and make a judgment as to whether they are applicable in this case.”
Once Breivik has served his sentence, prosecutors could ask that he remain incarcerated on the grounds that he might repeat a 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, the justice minister said.
“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,” Storberget 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 had purchased chemicals over the internet, Siv Alsen, a spokewoman for PST said.
“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 today. “There was no reason for further investigation.”
Polish police is interrogating the owner of a Polish company that sold legal chemicals to Breivik as a witness, Pawel Bialek, deputy head of the country’s internal security agency said yesterday.
U.K. police are assisting Norwegian officials with the probe to see if there is any connection between British and Norwegian extremist groups, a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday. There was no link between Breivik and Germany, the Interior Ministry in Berlin said.
Police Prosecutor Hjort Kraby said Norwegian authorities were working with several countries, declining to specify which besides the U.K.
Breivik’s rampage on the island lasted 90 minutes, during which he is alleged to have called on the youths to come to him for police protection, before shooting them point-blank. According to newspaper Dagbladet, Breivik said during his interrogation that he aimed to kill former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, known in Norway as the “Country’s Mother” after her 10 years at the helm of the Labor Party.
Breivik “expected that he would be stopped earlier by police or somebody else,” his lawyer said. “He was surprised that he reached the island.”