Stoltenberg sets out new anti-terror plans

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced new anti-terror measures Tuesday to improve shortcomings highlighted by Anders Behring Breivik's twin attacks, and said he would not resign despite criticism.

Stoltenberg sets out new anti-terror plans
Justice Minister Grete Faremo and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg take questions from the press after an extraordinary parliamentary session on Tuesday (Photo: Heio Junge/Scanpix).

Stoltenberg said a report on the authorities' handling of the attacks "showed that a lot failed," and vowed Norway would aim to better ensure the public's safety.

He was addressing legislators called in from their summer break for an extraordinary session to discuss a scathing report on the authorities' lack of preparedness and bungled response to Breivik's July 22nd 2011 attacks.

Stoltenberg said an emergency preparedness centre would be opened in Oslo grouping together its SWAT team, helicopter unit and canine squads, in a bid to improve emergency responses.

He said authorities would also hold more emergency drills and exercises, improve the military's ability to assist police in emergencies, and improve security at sensitive locations.

An independent commission published a report on August 13th finding that the Oslo bombing of the government offices that killed eight people could have been prevented, and Breivik could have been arrested sooner on the island of Utøya where he spent more than an hour gunning down 69 people, mostly teens.   

It concluded that political apathy led to the failure to implement a 2004 decision to cordon off the government block to traffic, and that the police's botched response to the shooting delayed Breivik's arrest.

"Grubbegata (the street outside the government block) should have been closed off, it wasn't. The killer could have been arrested earlier, he wasn't. Several security measures should have been implemented, they weren't," Stoltenberg acknowledged.

"I regret it," he said.

The failures brought to light by the report probably cost lives, the report suggested.

On the day of the massacre, the only police helicopter was out of action because its crew were on holiday, and a SWAT team took more than an hour to finally make it to the island, forced to use a pleasure boat after their inflatable almost sank.

Stoltenberg has come under fire since the report, undermining the huge popularity he enjoyed for his initial handling of the tragedy.

Tabloid Verdens Gang (VG), Norway's most widely-read paper, has called on Stoltenberg to resign.

But he has indirectly refused, saying it is his responsibility to ensure the commission's recommendations are implemented.

"I intend to do it," he said Tuesday.

With a year to go before Norway's next general elections, the right-wing opposition intends to keep up pressure on the government and may call a motion of no-confidence against the government.

That would however be purely symbolic as the centre-left coalition government holds a majority in parliament.

"It is serious that the authorities failed to protect the people," said opposition leader Siv Jensen of the right-wing populist Progress Party, the anti-immigration party of which Breivik was briefly a member.

Political scientist Bernt Aardal meanwhile told Norwegian news agency NTB that "the opposition now sees a possibility to hammer home criticism in the future: it's already accepted that this will mark the election campaign next year."

Breivik was last week found sane and sentenced to Norway's maximum sentence of 21 years in prison, to be extended indefinitely if he is still considered a threat to society.

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Norway mosque shooter ‘has admitted the facts’: Police

A Norwegian man suspected of killing his step sister and opening fire in a mosque near Oslo last weekend, has admitted to the crimes though he has not officially entered a plea, police said on Friday.

Norway mosque shooter 'has admitted the facts': Police
Philip Manshaus appears in court on August 12. Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB Scanpix / AFP
Philip Manshaus, 21, was remanded in custody Monday, suspected of murder and a “terrorist act” that police say he filmed himself committing.
Answering police questions on Friday, “the suspect admits the facts but has not taken a formal position as to the charges,” Oslo police official Pal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said in a statement.
Manshaus is suspected of murdering his 17-year-old step sister Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen, before entering the Al-Noor mosque in an affluent Oslo suburb and opening fire before he was overpowered by a 65-year-old man.
Just three worshippers were in the mosque at the time, and there were no serious injuries.
Manshaus appeared in court this week with two black eyes and scrapes and bruises to his face, neck and hands.
Police have said he has “extreme right views” and “xenophobic positions” and that he had filmed the mosque attack with a camera mounted on a helmet. He had initially denied the accusations.
The incident came amid a rise in white supremacy attacks around the world, including the recent El Paso massacre in the United States.
Norway witnessed one of the worst-ever attacks by a rightwing extremist in July 2011, when Anders Behring Breivik, who said he feared a “Muslim invasion”, killed 77 people in a truck bomb blast near government offices in Oslo and a shooting spree at a Labour Party youth camp on the island of Utøya.