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23 July 2011

Horror and panic as gunman targets campers in Oslo

Image: Olso and Utoya island, Norway

Witnesses have described the scene of horror on Norway's Utoya island after a gunman killed at least 80 people in an attack on Labour Party youth camp.

Teenagers fled screaming in panic and jumped into the water to save themselves when the attacker, dressed as a policeman, began spraying them with automatic gunfire.

The attack came shortly after a bomb explosion outside the prime minister's office in the capital Oslo killed seven people.

"I just saw people jumping into the water, about 50 people swimming towards the shore. People were crying, shaking, they were terrified," said Anita Lien, 42, who lives by Tyrifjord lake, a few hundred metres from Utoya island, which is north-west of Oslo.

"They were so young, between 14 and 19 years old," she said.

A young woman at the camp told British Sky television: "There was a lot of shooting ... We hid under a bed. It was very terrifying."

Utoya is an island about 500 metres long, clad with pine trees. Ms Lien said the shooting sounded like automatic gunfire.

A camp guard, Simen Braenden Mortensen, said that the gunman had tricked his way onto the island by posing as a policeman driving a silver grey car.

"He gets out of the car and shows ID, says he's sent there to check security, that that is purely routine in connection with the terror attack (in Oslo)," Mr Mortensen told the daily Verdens Gang.

"It all looks fine, and a boat is called and it carries him over to Utoya. A few minutes passed, then we heard shots," he said.

'Horrific scenes'


Photo: A wounded woman is brought ashore opposite Utoya island (in the distance) after being rescued from a gunman who went on a killing rampage targeting participants in a Norwegian Labour Party youth organisation event on the island, some 40 kilometres south-west of Oslo, on July 22 , 2011. (AFP: Svein Gustav Wilhelmsen)

Rune Thomas Ege was one of the only journalists on Utoya when the shootings took place.

"We saw people still being dragged out of the water. We saw people being taken care of by paramedics on the shore," he said.

"There were some horrific scenes of the young kids, some crying, some shaking while watching paramedics trying to save their best friend's life."

A teenaged boy who witnessed the attack from the mainland told Britain's Sky Television: "We heard people screaming, it was horrible...Some were waving at us from the island."

Police said they had found undetonated explosives on the island. They said the gunman, whom they described as ethnic Norwegian, may also have been involved in planting the bomb in Oslo.

Early on Saturday, an ambulance left the lake area, with a body lying on a stretcher inside. Cars with distraught relatives were heading to a nearby hotel hoping to meet loved ones evacuated from the island.

Police and dogs were still searching the island and lake overnight from boats and helicopters, with ambulances on standby. Searchlights slowly swept the water in the dark.

People living by the lake got into boats to try to evacuate people from the water. "I used my boat to ferry a lot of people from the island, I saw many wounded people," said a local man who said he lived in a white house by the lake.

ABC/Reuters