August 12, 2011 / 12:39 PM / 9 years ago

Norway names commission to judge attack response

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway appointed a nine-person commission on Friday to investigate the attacks that killed 77 people last month, including the police response that has been criticised as slow.

Flowers and candles are seen on the shore in front of Utoeya island, northwest of Oslo July 25, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

“The July 22 commission’s mandate is to lay out all relevant facts about what happened, unvarnished and honest,” said Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Since the July 22 bombing and shootings, critics have called into question the speed and competence of the emergency response.

“To move forward as a nation we must be sure we know everything about the events of July 22,” said Stoltenberg, who gave the commission a year to submit a final report to him.

Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, admitted detonating a bomb at Norway’s main government building and gunning down people at a Labour Party youth camp on a nearby island in what he saw as a blow against multi-culturalism.

Breivik targeted the Labour Party as a symbol of Europe’s acceptance of Muslim immigrants, according to his lawyer.

Critics of the police response have told local media that Oslo’s specially armed crisis-response team lacked quick access to a transport helicopter.

Some observers have also questioned why officers in nearby Hoenefoss chose to wait for the Oslo-based team — some 45 km (28 miles) away by car — rather than setting off immediately by boat for the island.

The police have admitted to Reuters that when they did launch their police boat, they overloaded it so that it took on water and stalled, forcing them to transfer to recreational vessels to complete the crossing.

They have also acknowledged that the first responding officers did not choose the shortest crossing available. An hour passed between when the police received the first reports of the killings until Breivik was arrested on Utoeya island.

The commission, which will be expanded by an additional member later, is to be headed by attorney Alexandra Bech Gjoerv, a former corporate executive.

Gjoerv said the commission had no desire to “create new victims” by casting blame, but she added: “There is no way around the fact that we have to look into the actions of individual people.”

The commission members include police and military officials, academics and medical experts. The single non-Norwegian is Hanne Bech Hansen, a former chief of the Danish police.

Additional reporting by Walter Gibbs; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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