Police 'did not act fast enough to stop Breivik'

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The Independent Online

A report concluded yesterday that Norwegian police could have prevented the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's devastating Oslo bomb attack in 2011 and that his subsequent slaughter of young people on Utoya island could have been halted earlier if officers had acted properly.

The findings were the results of an independent inquiry into Norway's worst act of violence since the Second World War. Seventy-seven people were killed and more than 240 others were wounded in Breivik's attacks on 22 July last year.

In the aftermath, police were criticised for bungling their attempt to rescue victims and for not acting fast enough. However, yesterday's report amounted to a conclusive and withering indictment of police failure.

The inquiry, headed by the lawyer Alexandra Bech Gjoerv, produced a 482-page report which found that Breivik's bomb attack on Oslo's government complex "could have been prevented by effective implementation of security measures that were already in place".

A pedestrian called police 10 minutes after Breivik detonated his Oslo bomb and provided a good description of his appearance, but the tip-off was not followed up for two hours.

Although it was clear that a major terrorist attack was under way, police failed to issue a nationwide alert. No roadblocks or observation posts were set up and there was no attempt to mobilise police helicopters.

After detonating the bomb in Oslo, Breivik made his way to a Norwegian Labour Party youth camp on the fjord island of Utoya north-west of the capital. Dressed as a policeman and equipped with an automatic rifle, he shot dead 68 people. Many were killed as they tried to swim away.

Afterwards, police were criticised for bungling their attempt to reach the island by an inflatable police boat. The report found that the two officers involved did not try to find an alternative civilian boat immediately. Although the island lies only some 300 yards offshore, the report concluded "it took police an unacceptable 35 minutes to get to the island".

Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg refused to criticise the police. He said the inquiry could not change what happened but added: "It is important because it gives us an understanding of what happened."