Bomb kills 7 in Oslo and several dead in shooting

A bomb killed seven people in Norway's capital Oslo on Friday and a gunman opened fire at a youth camp on...

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A bomb killed

seven people in Norway's capital Oslo on Friday and a gunman opened fire

at a youth camp on an island, police said.

Police said they believed the

bombing and the shooting were connected, but could not immediately

confirm Norwegian media reports that several people at been killed at

the youth camp.

A Reuters witness said several army soldiers had taken up position around the center of the city.

With

police advising people to evacuate central Oslo, apparently in fear of

more attacks, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told Norwegian TV2

television in a phone call that the situation was "very serious." He

said that police had told him not to say where he was speaking from.

The

bomb ripped through the main government building in the normally sleepy

Norwegian capital in mid-afternoon, killing seven people, police said,

and injuring many more.

"It

exploded -- it must have been a bomb. People ran in panic...I counted at

least 10 injured people," said bystander Kjersti Vedun, who was leaving

the area of the blast in Oslo.

Shortly

afterwards, a gunman opened fire at the island of Utoeya north-west of

Oslo, where Stoltenberg's Labour party youth section's annual gathering

was taking place.

Daily newspaper VG said on its website a man dressed as a policeman had been shooting wildly and had hit many people.

Norwegian commercial broadcaster TV2 said several people had been killed in the shooting spree.

There

was no clear claim of responsibility and while the attacks appeared to

bear the hallmarks of an Islamist militant assault, analysts said it was

too early to draw any conclusions.

NATO member Norway has been the target of threats before over its involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya.

The

attack came just over a year after three men were arrested on suspicion

of having links to al Qaeda and planning to attack targets in Norway.

It came also less than three months after U.S. forces killed Osama bin

Laden in a raid on his hideout in Pakistan.

A

Reuters witness said he had seen soldiers taking up positions around

central Oslo, while police said they feared there might be explosives at

the youth camp.

Violence or the

threat of it has already come to the other Nordic states: a botched bomb

attack took place in the Swedish capital Stockholm last December and

the bomber was killed.

Denmark has

received repeated threats after a newspaper published cartoons of the

Prophet Mohammad in late 2005, angering Muslims worldwide.

The

Oslo blast tore at the facade of the 17-storey central government

building, blowing out most of the windows and scattering shards of metal

and other debris for hundreds of meters (yards).

The

building of a publisher which recently put out a translation of a

Danish book on the Mohammad cartoon controversy was also affected, but

was apparently not the target.

The

blast scattered debris across the streets and shook the entire city

center at around 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EDT). A Reuters witness saw eight

people injured, one covered in a sheet and apparently dead.

MOST VIOLENT "SINCE WORLD WAR TWO"

The

Reuters correspondent said the streets had been fairly quiet in

mid-afternoon on a Friday in high summer, when many Oslo residents take

vacation or leave for weekend breaks.

"This

is a terror attack. It is the most violent event to strike Norway since

World War Two," said Geir Bekkevold, an opposition parliamentarian for

the Christian Peoples Party.

The district attacked is the very heart of power in Norway, with several other key administration buildings nearby.

Nearby

ministries were also hit by the blast, including the oil ministry,

which was on fire. Nevertheless, security is not tight given the lack of

violence in the past.

The failed

December attack in Stockholm was by a Muslim man who grew up in Sweden

but said he had been angered by Sweden's involvement in the NATO-led

force in Afghanistan and the Prophet Mohammad cartoons.

That

attack was followed weeks later by the arrest in Denmark of five men

for allegedly planning to attack the newspaper which first ran the

Mohammad cartoons.

In July 2010,

Norwegian police arrested three men for an alleged plot to organize at

least one attack on Norwegian targets and said they were linked to

individuals investigated in the United States and Britain.

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 a reprisal for Sweden's contribution to the efforts in Afghanistan."

Political

violence is virtually unknown in a country known for awarding the Nobel

Peace Prize and mediating in conflicts, including in the Middle East

and Sri Lanka.