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Norway to evaluate police response
Independent commission to review and assess country's security measures after period of national grieving.
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2011 20:21



Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister, has said that an independent commission will be set up to review the response to the recent gun-and-bomb attack that killed at least 76 people.

"It's important to clarify all aspects of the attacks to learn lessons from what has occurred," Stoltenberg told a news conference on Wednesday. "This is a national tragedy, an attack on the nation."

Stoltenberg had earlier said that the police reponse and security measures would be reviewed after a mourning period for the victims of the attacks.

"(Police) organisation and capacity will be part of an evaluation," he said.

He said he welcomed a debate on security and that he believed the attacks of Friday, July 22, would lead to an increased interest in political activity among Norwegians.

"I believe the result of this will be more participation, more political activity," he said.

Breivik has confessed to carrying out both the shooting and the bombing of the government headquarters. Investigators say, however, that because Brievik "probably" had no accomplices, he was "in full control" of the investigation, as the police "don't have any sources".

Police failure

Norway's police and security services have come under fire over the time it took officers to reach the island scene of a gun rampage that killed 68 youths on Friday, hours after a downtown bombing of government offices claimed eight lives.

Experts have said the car bomb acted as a decoy, but that the government was insufficiently prepared for the gun attack perpetrated by Breivik.

In video


Tania Page reports from Norway on how Norwegians are coming to terms with the grief

International experts said in coming months Norway must re-examine a system premised on the assumption that the country does not face a credible risk of terrorist attack, much less a back-to-back bombing and gun rampage.

Fernando Reinares, former senior anti-terrorism adviser to the Spanish government, said Norway has just suffered "an astonishing failure in police intelligence”.

He said Breivik should have been identified by a competent anti-terrorist agency because of his purchases of bomb-making ingredients and specialist weaponry.

"Norway is behind other Western European countries in adapting internal security structures and procedures to face terrorist challenges," he said.

"But there was also an amazing failure in police preparedness and reaction, both in terms of human resources and technical capabilities."

Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, said Norway has just been victimised by the common experience of all countries caught off guard by terror.

"Their planners suffered a major failure of imagination, to foresee that the adversary could go that far," he said.

"But this is exactly what every counter-terror policy must do to be effective: to plan and train for worst-case scenarios. Because if you haven't done that before the bomb goes off or the shooting starts, then you're just improvising, and that just increases the dangers."

No helicopter

In Norway's case, the Delta Force squad - whose formal Norwegian name of "Beredskapstroppen" means "emergency unit" - is equipped only to travel to crises on Norway's largely two-lane road network.

It took about a half-hour to cover the roughly 40-kilometre journey.

Police spokesman Sturla Henriksbo said Norway - which is some 1,750 kilometres long with around 50,000 islands alone - has only one police helicopter, based at an airport north of Oslo. And that helicopter has only four seats: two for the pilots, one for an equipment manager.

"That helicopter is never assigned for the transportation of anyone, never mind Delta Force," he said.

Finn Abrahamsen, a former Oslo policeman who directed the force's violent crimes unit, said Norway could have used that helicopter as a rapid-response platform for a police sniper.

On Friday, however, the police's helicopter pilots were all away on summer leave.

Delta Force could have used an army helicopter, but decided it would take too long to scramble one from the nearest base in Rygge, some 60 kilometres to the south. So they drove, then waited for the tiny local police department to scramble its lone boat, a small rigid inflatable craft.

All the while, shooting and screams could be heard from Utoeya Island, only 600 metres away.

'Overloaded vessel'

Within seconds of scrambling on board, officers found themselves having to bail out the overloaded vessel. Then the engine became waterlogged and died.

"Too many policeman wanted to go too quickly to the island," explained Kgell Tvenge, commander of the police base in the nearby town of Honefoss where the boat is docked. "But the boat didn't sink. They got a new boat from a tourist," he said.

Police say within 5 minutes of their reaching the island, Breivik was disarmed and in custody. The killer wrote beforehand that he always planned to surrender as soon as police arrived, so that he could publicise his extreme nationalist and anti-Muslim views in court and inspire copycat attacks elsewhere.

Andenas, the law professor, said he would have expected Norway's special forces to have trained to reach a nearby popular retreat like Utoeya within 15 minutes, not an hour.

"Many people feel this was a very difficult situation, that one should take account of that and not too be too critical of people who certainly tried to do their best," Andenas said.

"But it was just not good enough. The police action was too little and too slow," he said. "The cold truth is that many children who died out there should not have died." 

Source:
Agencies
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