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23 July 2011

Norway bomb suspect bought 6 tons of fertiliser

Image: A Norwegian soldier stands in front of the government headquarters in Oslo after it was destroyed in a bomb blast [Aleksander Andersen/Scanpix/AFP]

Sundvollen - The Norwegian man suspected in a bombing and shooting spree that killed at least 92 people bought six tons of fertiliser before the massacre, the supplier said on Saturday as police investigated witness accounts of a second shooter.

Norway's royal family and prime minister led the nation in mourning, visiting grieving relatives of the scores of youth gunned down at an island retreat, as the shell-shocked Nordic nation was gripped by reports that the gunman may not have acted alone.

The shooting spree began just hours after a massive explosion that ripped through an Oslo high-rise building housing the prime minister's office. At least 91 people have been killed, but police say more are missing.

The queen and the prime minister hugged when they arrived at the hotel where families are waiting to identify the bodies. Both king and queen shook hands with mourners, while the prime minister, his voice trembling, told reporters of the harrowing stories survivors had recounted to him.

A man who said he was carrying a knife was detained by police officers outside the hotel. He told reporters as he was led away that he was carrying the weapon because he didn't feel safe.

On the island of Utoya, panicked teens attending a Labour Party youth wing summer camp plunged into the water or played dead to avoid the assailant in the assault that may have lasted 30 minutes before a SWAT team arrived, police said. A picture sent out on Twitter showed a blurry figure in dark clothing pointing a gun into the water, with bodies all around him.

Flags at half-staff

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said the twin attacks made Friday peacetime Norway's deadliest day.

Buildings around the capital lowered their flags to half-staff on Saturday. People streamed to Oslo Cathedral to light candles and lay flowers. The Army patrolled the streets of the capital, a highly unusual sight for this normally placid country.

"This is beyond comprehension. It's a nightmare. It's a nightmare for those who have been killed, for their mothers and fathers, family and friends," Stoltenberg told reporters earlier on Saturday.

The suspect in police custody - a blonde blue-eyed Norwegian with reported Christian fundamentalist, anti-Muslim views - has been preliminarily charged with acts of terrorism.

Information about the man began to trickle out on Saturday, including that he owned a farm and had amassed six tons of fertiliser in the weeks before the twin attacks. Fertiliser is highly explosive and can be used in homemade bombs.

Oddny Estenstad, a spokesperson for agricultural material supplier Felleskjopet, said Saturday that the company alerted police to the purchase after the man emerged as a suspect.

That quantity of fertiliser - akin to 200 50-pound bags of grain - wouldn't have fit in one car, according to Bob Ayers, former U.S. intelligence official. Two burned-out cars could be see at the scene Friday, but police have not confirmed whether they were used in the attack.

Though police did not release his name, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK identified him as 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik and said police searched his Oslo apartment overnight.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told reporters that the attacks, believed to be the work of a man who has posted on Christian fundamentalist websites, showed you can't jump to conclusions about terror acts. He said most of the political violence that Norway has seen has come from the extreme right.

"This is a phenomenon that we have to address very seriously," Stoere said.

The Army patrols were an indication of the stepped up vigilance, although police lifted their recommendation, issued after the bombing, that people stay away from the city center.

Nordstrom reported from Stockholm. Associated Press reporters Nils Myklebost Oslo, Karl Ritter in Stockholm, Rita Foley in Washington, Paisley Dodds in London, and Paul Schemm in Tripoli, Libya, contributed to this report.

- AP/News24