In an unusual but welcome development, Norwegian police have announced a reduction in the death toll from Friday’s twin terror attacks.
While the number of people killed in the bomb blast at the government headquarters in Oslo rose by one, to eight; the number of confirmed deaths at the subsequent shootings on Utoya island has been reduced from 86 to 68. The drop, bringing the total death toll from 93 to 76, has been attributed to confusion which ensued after the island massacre and difficult search conditions.
Oystein Maeland, Norway’s police director, said they initially confirmed that just nine or 10 members of the Labour Party youth organisation were gunned down by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik at the island camp on Friday. “But then they started finding many dead bodies and it was important to report that the death toll was significantly higher,” he said at a press conference.
Maeland added that search conditions were difficult as there were bodies along the shoreline, in the water and in hiding places such as caves and crevices. He warned, however, that as some campers are still missing, the death toll could increase again.
Meanwhile, as thousands of Norwegians took to the streets to mourn the dead, Breivik made his first appearance in court and admitted to terrorism charges. The hearing was held behind closed doors to prevent the 32 year-old from sending signals to any accomplices.
The Norwegian national, who published a manifesto of his right-wing extremist views on the internet shortly before the attacks, asked to wear a uniform and read from the document in court, but was denied by Judge Kim Heger.
Prosecutor Christian Hatlo said Breivik, who describes himself as a conservative Christian on his Facebook profile, was calm and appeared “unaffected” during the hearing. Judge Heger added that Breivik said he was acting to save Norway and Europe from “Marxist and Muslim colonisation”, by causing the biggest loss possible to Norway’s governing Labour Party.