July 22 (Bloomberg) -- A bomb blast tore through central Oslo, shattering windows at the prime minister’s office and leaving at least seven people dead, while a gunman shot several people on an island near the Norwegian capital, police said.
Prime Minister and Labor Party leader Jens Stoltenberg wasn’t at his office when the bomb went off and is safe, spokesman Oeivind Oestang said by phone. Stoltenberg had been due to appear tomorrow at the Labor Party youth gathering where the shootings took place on the island of Utoeya.
“It’s too early to say whether there were more people killed” in the bomb blast, acting police chief Sveinung Sponheim said at a press conference in Oslo. It’s likely that the shooting is linked to the bombing, he said. The gunman shot several people and left “possibly some dead,” police spokesman Roy Fossum said.
The attacks are the deadliest in Europe since bomb blasts at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in January left at least 37 people dead.
Today’s bombing, for which no one has claimed responsibility, marks the first time Oslo has suffered such an attack. Three terrorist suspects with possible ties to al-Qaeda were arrested last year in Norway.
“There could be a lot of theories on who is behind this, but our first suspicions are directed towards al-Qaeda, because leaders of the network have on multiple occasions put Norway on the list of targets for possible attacks,” Kristian Berg Harpviken, director at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, said by phone. “Two factors that have contributed to this are Norway’s role in the war on terror and in Afghanistan in particular.”
Troops in Afghanistan
Norway, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has about 500 troops in Afghanistan. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he condemns “in the strongest possible terms the heinous acts of violence in Norway.” In a statement, he called the acts “cruel and cowardly.”
Neighboring Sweden had a brush with what police treated as a possible terror attack in December, after a suicide bomber injured two people in central Stockholm. Danish security police have been on heightened alert since 2006 after the country’s biggest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Those images were reprinted be several Norwegian papers.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the attacks showed that “no country large or small” is immune to such violence. In comments to reporters at the White House, Obama said the bombing demonstrates the need for enhanced intelligence sharing.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen sent a statement conveying his “deepest sympathy and solidarity” with the Norwegian people. U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague described the bombing in a press release as “horrific.”
No Ministers Hurt
Before the explosion, a car drove into the government quarter, the police said in a statement. No government ministers were hurt, Stoltenberg told broadcaster NRK.
Eirik Borg, a back office worker at stock brokerage Fearnley Fonds based near the scene, said he saw smoke billowing from the government quarter after hearing the blast.
“We felt the impact very hard throughout the building,” Borg said in a phone interview. “All the windows were breaking and we actually thought lightning hit our roof. From our terrace, we saw white smoke.”
The bombing initially sent Norway’s currency and stocks lower. The krone weakened as much as 1 percent against the dollar and was trading 0.4 percent lower at 8:30 p.m. local time. Against the euro, the krone was little changed at 7.7851 after losing as much as 0.4 percent. The benchmark OBX stock index fell as much as 0.4 percent before closing little changed.
“Large sections of the center of Oslo have been evacuated and the police are urging people to stay away from the center of the city and limit their use of mobile phones,” the police said in a statement. Sponheim said police don’t expect further blasts.
The country’s Ministry of Petroleum suffered “massive damage” as a consequence of the blast, spokesman Haakon Smith- Isaksen said by phone. Norway is the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter.
“There was a huge explosion, the windows just blew out,” Smith-Isaken said. “There is much debris, people are injured. It was like a grenade explosion.”
Norway’s government will hold an emergency meeting tonight to discuss how to handle the attacks, Stoltenberg told NRK.
--With assistance from Marianne Stigset in Oslo, Frances Schwartzkopff in Copenhagen, Kati Pohjanpalo and Diana ben-Aaron in Helsinki, Ola Kinnander, Johan Carlstrom and Adam Ewing and Kim McLaughlin in Stockholm. Editors: Tasneem Brogger, Ken Fireman.
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