A massive blast, and the carnage was just beginning

Workers, shoppers, and bright young people were going about their business. Then, one man changed everything. Sarah Morrison, Tara Mulholland and Phillip Wood report

Those who heard the explosion described it as sounding like thunder breaking immediately overhead; some ducked instinctively. Then, unimaginably, it began to rain glass. Oslo, one of the most civilised of capital cities, was under attack.

The massive blast shook the centre at 3.26pm local time on Friday (2.26pm BST), laying waste to the administrative heart of the government, blowing out the windows of the Prime Minister's offices, devastating the finance and oil ministries and killing at least seven people.

The boom was heard across the city. The area targeted, the Regjeringskvartalet, the epicentre of government, is near the Stortinget (parliament building) and a brisk walk from City Hall, where the Nobel peace prize is awarded annually.

Witnesses described the immediate aftermath as like a war zone, with survivors walking dazed through streets strewn with rubble. A huge dust cloud billowed up over the city centre, spreading a shroud of dust and debris beyond its boundaries.

The force of the explosions blew out nearly every window in the 17-storey office which contains the office of the Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, as well as the justice ministry. Across the road, fires started inside the oil and finance ministries.

Former journalist Andreas Lunde, who was among the first on the scene, said: "When I walked around the corner, it looked like a war zone, a catastrophe. There was glass, smoke, fire, an area of catastrophe.

"I saw a man give someone heart compressions on the ground, but the person on the ground was definitely dead, so I stopped him and found something to cover the face.

"I saw several injured people, but if it looked like they were being cared for, I walked on. When I saw a person who was missing both legs, before someone came, I covered that person up too."

Ben Symes, a British student who was in Oslo, said: "It came out of the blue. We felt this huge explosion then a powerful force through our legs.

"I don't know what I first thought. I looked out of the shop window and saw shattered buildings and carnage everywhere. Ours was the only one which seemed to be still intact.

"There was smoke and ash everywhere, loads of debris and dust in our eyes. We walked and saw huge slabs of concrete and bits of road all torn up. I saw a car which was completely blown out and overturned. Then I knew what happened."

Police rapidly cordoned off the area and evacuated nearby buildings. Ambulances rushed dozens of injured to hospital. Experts said that the toll of victims would almost certainly have been higher but for the fact that many people had headed home for the weekend. Among them was the Prime Minister, who was working from home when the explosion struck.

Amid the wreckage and devastation were the steel skeletons of two cars parked close to the government offices which bore the brunt of the explosion. Norwegian police said yesterday that they believed one had been parked at the scene at least one hour earlier.

The man they suspect of parking it is Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian businessman, who lived in an apartment with his mother in the wealthy west Oslo district of Skoyen, a 10-minute drive away from the scene.

They believe the vehicle had been packed with a lethal mixture of ammonium-nitrate fertiliser bags and fuel oil. Similar bombs have been used to devastating effect by terrorist groups all over the world. In 1992, a so-called Amfo bomb planted by the IRA exploded in Bishopgate, in the City of London, killing three.

Yesterday, Oddny Estenstad, a spokeswoman for an agricultural supply company, confirmed that Breivik, who runs a farm company, purchased six tons of fertiliser 10 weeks ago.

As police and rescue workers picked their way through the rubble searching for trapped victims, Breivik was believed to be travelling on the E18 road towards Tyrifjorden lake, some 38km north-west of Oslo. His destination was Utoya island where a summer youth camp organised by the ruling Labour Party was in progress.

On board the ferry, Breivik, who was wearing a blue uniform, passed himself off as a police officer, saying he was a security follow-up in the aftermath of the Oslo bombing. When he disembarked at 5.10pm, witnesses described how he called the teenagers to him. One, Hana, a 16-year-old, later said: "I saw a policeman stand there with earplugs. He said: 'I'd like to gather everyone.' Then he ran in and started shooting."

Eyewitnesses described chaotic scenes that ensued as terrified teenagers fled from the gunman, some plunging into the water to swim to safety. Others hid in the undergrowth, cowering in fear.

What followed was more than an hour of carnage as Breivik stalked teenagers across the island, shooting at them with at least three weapons, including a Glock handgun, a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle, pausing only to reload each time his ammunition ran out. Those who plunged into the lake trying to escape were shot as they tried to swim to safety; others played dead, while some tried to hide behind rocks on the shore.

"I just saw people jumping into the water, about 50 people swimming towards the shore. People were crying, shaking, they were terrified," said Anita Lien, 42, who lives by Tyrifjorden lake. "They were so young, between 15 and 19 years old," she said.

Erik Kursetgjerde, an 18-year-old Labour Party youth member, described the fear and panic as the gunman methodically carried out the massacre. The killer, dressed as a policeman, "would tell people to come over: 'It's OK, you're safe. We're coming to help you.' He said. "I heard screams. I heard people begging for their lives and I heard shots. He just blew them away. I was certain I was going to die.

"And then I saw about 20 people come towards him and he shot them at close range," he said. Mr Kursetgjerde said he hid between cliffs, then swam out into the lake and nearly drowned. "Someone [in a boat] rescued me. They saved my life."

Thorbjoern Vereive, 22, said: "Some people said he also had something that looked like a rifle. When I swam out into the water, he shot all my friends. He shot them when they were running away. I hid in a cave and had to lie in the water.

"He picked them out, one by one. He was mostly silent. It looked like it didn't bother him. He tried to shoot me and I saw the bullet pass right next to me. I thought I was going to die."

Jorgen Benone said: "I was hiding behind some stones. I saw him once, just 20-30 metres away. I thought of all the people I love. I saw some boats rescuing people but I wasn't sure if I could trust them. I didn't know who I could trust any more."

Police, alerted by scores of desperate mobile phone calls from teenagers hiding from Breivik, struggled to respond rapidly. With resources focused in central Oslo, they struggled to get a trained team of armed officers to the island. Yesterday a police spokesman admitted that the massacre continued for at least an hour and 35 minutes before the armed response team reached the island.

When the Swat team arrived by helicopter, the gunman surrendered, said police chief Sveinung Sponheim. "There were problems with transport to Utoya. It was difficult to get boats, but that problem was solved when the Swat team arrived."

Only after Breivik was captured could they begin to count the human cost of what experts are describing as the deadliest attack by a gunman. By that time, at least 85 people were dead. Last night police admitted that four or five people were still missing. Divers have been searching the waters around the island.

Police said Breivik is talking to them and has admitted to firing weapons on the island. It was not clear if he had confessed to anything else.

Police said he had retained a lawyer, but the attorney did not want to be named. "He has had a dialogue with the police the whole time, but he's a very demanding suspect," Mr Sponheim said. Police were unable to confirm reports that a second gunman was present on the island. Mr Sponheim said detectives are still investigating those claims.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us