Explosion rocks Government Building in Central Oslo , 2 confirmed dead

Jul 22, 2011

Explosion rocks Central Oslo, 2 confirmed dead

Smoke rises from buildings in Oslo, Norway, at the scene of a large explosion which tore apart several buildings.

A loud explosion today shattered windows at the government headquarters in Oslo which includes the Norwegian prime minister’s office, injuring several people.  Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is safe, government spokeswoman Camilla Ryste said.

Norway PM Stoltenberg says the blasts are “very serious,” bit it istoo early to say if terrorists are to be blamed.

There was no claim of responsibility, though NATO member Norway has been the target of threats, if not bombs, before, notably over its involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was safe, NTB said.

NRK radio said at least two people were killed in an attack that may have brought global political violence to the quiet Scandinavian city.

Images on Norwegian television showed the prime minister’s office and other buildings heavily damaged, sidewalks covered in broken glass and smoke rising from the area.The explosion blew out most of the windows of the 17-storey central government building, cast a huge pall of smoke over the city and scattered shards of metal and other debris for hundreds of meters.

Nearby ministries were also hit, including the oil ministry, which was on fire. Heavy debris littered the streets.

“So far I can confirm that we have received seven people at Oslo University Hospital,” a press officer at the clinic said. “I don’t know how seriously wounded they are.”

oslo bomb blast

Smoke is seen billowing from a damaged building as debris is strewn across the street after an explosion in Oslo, Norway Friday July 22, 2011

Witness Ole Tommy Pedersen was standing at a bus stop about 100 meters from the high-rise at around 3:30 pm (1330GMT) when he saw the blast shatter almost all windows of the 20-floor highrise. He said a cloud of smoke is billowing from the bottom floors.

“I saw three or four injured people being carried out of the building a few minutes later,” Pedersen said. Nearby offices were evacuated including those housing some of Norway’s leading newspapers and news agency NTB.

An AP reporter at the scene saw one person with a bleeding leg being led away from the area.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was reported to have not been in his office at the time of the blast. Police had sealed off the area, which houses the offices of the prime minister, the finance ministry and the country’s biggest tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

NRK radio said at least two people were killed in an attack. AP

Two cabinet ministers said that Stoltenberg had been scheduled to be visiting areas far outside Oslo today. News agency NTB also reported that Stoltenberg was “safe”.

Witnesses said the damage was extensive and that injured victims could be seen.

John Drake, senior risk consultant, at London-based consultancy AKE said: “It may not be too dissimilar to the terrorist attack in Stockholm in December which saw a car bomb and secondary explosion shortly after in the downtown area.”

“That attack was later claimed as reprisal for Sweden’s contribution to the efforts in Afghanistan.”

NATO member Norway has sometimes in the past been threatened by leaders of al Qaeda for its involvement in Afghanistan. But political violence is virtually unknown in a country known for sponsoring the Nobel Peace Prize and mediating in international conflicts, including in the Middle East and Sri Lanka.

It has also taken part the NATO bombing of Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi has threatened to strike back in Europe.