Norway Probe Derides Unacceptable Delay in Ending Breivik Terror

An investigation into Norwegian police’s response to last year’s mass hate killings by Anders Behring Breivik found there were “unacceptable” delays that could have been avoided.

The group found “large weaknesses” and agreed on six main conclusions, said Alexandra Bech Gjoerv, head of the July 22 Commission, as she today handed the report to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo. The main findings include that the attack on the premier’s office could have been prevented and that the police could have moved faster to halt the shooting on Utoeya Island, according to a report.

“The time it took is unacceptable,” Gjoerv said.

Breivik on July 22 last year massacred 69 people -- some as young as 14 --- at a Labor Party youth camp on Utoeya, after earlier detonating a car bomb by the prime minister’s office in Oslo, killing eight. The 10-week trial of the confessed murderer ended in Oslo on June 22. The verdict is scheduled for Aug. 24 as the judges need to decide whether the man responsible for the worst peace-time massacre in Norwegian history is sane enough for prison.

Leadership Failure

The failure to prevent the attacks and limit their scope was to a “ greater extent applicable to leadership, interaction, culture and attitudes, than to a lack of resources, a need for new legislation, organization or important value choices,” the commission said. “The measures recommended will put society and individuals in a better position to face future challenges. They are inevitable. Accordingly, it is crucial to address the basic challenges. This is urgent.”

The commission also said that health and emergency services acted in a “satisfactory” manner and that the government’s communication with the public was “good.”

The group said that while the Police Security Service could have “become aware” of the perpetrator before July 22, the commission has no grounds for “contending” that the service “could and should have averted the attacks.”

Police have faced criticism for their response to events at the island, where Breivik was able to keep shooting for more than an hour. Police were also unaware of a helicopter stationed in Oslo on the day of the attacks and their rapid response team used a car and a boat to reach the island, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Oslo. The first vessel they used to reach the island experienced engine problems, delaying the operation.

The report is “very important” because it will give us common knowledge of what happened and will be “central” in the debate that will come, Stoltenberg said at the ceremony.

The 10-person group is headed by lawyer and former Statoil ASA executive Gjoerv and also includes the former head of the Norwegian Intelligence Service, academics, executives as well as police officials from neighboring Denmark and Finland.

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