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Norway's Massacre Could Have Been Stopped Sooner, Commission Concludes

The bombing that began the July 22, 2011, attacks in Oslo could have been prevented and the massacre that followed on an island outside the city could have been stopped much sooner than it was, according to a report released today by an independent commission.

Eight people were killed by a bomb left inside a vehicle parked outside government offices. Then Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible, went to an island where a camp was being held for young people interested in politics. There, he killed 69 individuals, most of them teens.

Norway's The Local writes that in today's report the commission says the bombing "could have been prevented through effective implementation of already adopted security measures" and that a "more rapid" reaction by police to the shooting rampage on the island was "a realistic possibility."

According to The Associated Press:

-- "Plans to close off the street in front of the government building were approved in 2010, but work on constructing physical barriers had not been completed and no temporary obstacles had been set up. A parking ban in the area was not strictly enforced."

-- "The police response [to the island attack] was slowed down by a series of blunders, including flaws in communication systems and the breakdown of an overloaded boat carrying a police anti-terror unit. Meanwhile, Norway's only police helicopter was left unused, its crew on vacation. Breivik's shooting spree lasted for more than one hour before he surrendered to police."

The Local says that "two local police officers who arrived first on the lakeshore should have done everything possible to get to the island, according to police instructions in the event of a shooting. Instead they remained on shore, saying they couldn't find a boat to take them to the island."

When an elite police force finally arrived, its members had to borrow two pleasure boats to go a short distance from shore to the island.

"According to the commission," The Local reports, "if procedures had been respected, police could have been on the island by 6.15 pm, or 12 minutes earlier, which could possibly have spared lives though the commission did not say as much."

The AP notes that "the justice minister and the head of the Norwegian Security Service have already been replaced since the attacks."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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