fredag 12. august 2011

An ill wind which brings change.....Utøya and Oslo Tragedy

Everyone really agrees here that the bombing of the government quarter in Oslo and massacre on Utøya could only have been perpretrated because it was so unthinkable.

The heart shaped island became a trap as good as a cage in a distant forrest or a concentration camp in Nazi germany. This was beacause no one had really even conceived let a lone planned for such an attack.

The bombing in Oslo's own "whitehall" or "capitol hill" however was however outside this category 'unthinkable' - it appears the van packed with basic nitrate based explosives- the low tech', bulky, agriculturally derived favourite of the IRA in their time- had ten minutes parked illegally without raising suspicion or even a cursory inspection.That a police uniformed assailant walking out such a vehicle aroused no suspicion is maybe not so remarkable, even if it was driven through a no entry sign. The time span it went unchallenged there after, is very note worthy.

Hold on here though: How unthinkable is a terrorist attack which employs a lone gun man with several automatic weapons in a confined area with a concentrated amount of people? Or an attack on a school or college by a disgruntled pupil?

What is really unthinkable is that the attack was undertaken by a white, middle class, educated norwegian from the posher side of the Oslo conurbation. Dressed as a policeman he would have aroused no suspicion and that was all part of his cover. He knew he could get away with it. However he did raise suspicion of at least one passer by who saw him enter his second van and drive the wrong way up a one way street and he reported this and the van number to the police. 40 minutes later or so he was on the short ferry crossing to the island.

Our first reaction was probably unanimous with the rest of the country: middle eastern extremists had finally struck, biting the hand of the peace brokers in palastine. My thoughts also turned to the opposite: a mossad directed bombing under the cover of islamic terror to alienate Norway from the peace process and recognition og Palastine as a state with a democratically elected government.

TV2 the independent leader in national TV here, reported an ethnic norsk gunman and then actually unwittingly captured film of him actually still shooting as they flew over the scene. They arrived before the police and seemed to make no offer to allow police to commandere the helicopter: an oversight I hope plagues both pilot and journalists on board to their graves. They could have saved SOME lives, some injuries and lead to a perhaps the shooting of the gunman, which would have been a more satisfactory result on all sides than him living as some kind of imprisoned "bin laden" of the right.

Vital minutes were lost due to poorly informed local police whose"local knowledge" of boat availability at the nearest quays to the island lead to a fateful redirecting of the armed rapid response unit to a quay furter north. There they found few boats available and over burdoned an unsuitable craft to make a lone patrol, vulnerable assault on the island.

Meanwhile at the first quay on the lakeside, members of the public were using boats to rescue people swimming and coming under occaisional fire. The police came that far apparently and considered the prescence of a van and proxikity to gunfire too dangerous in an announcement before the latest information came through on plain ignorance.

What will happen now in the planning for response to such incidents? And amongst the population

Firstly people in general are going to be more sceptical about what right wing extremists are up to. They are going to look at who is in their gun club, who is a bit strange in their political ranks. Also who is blurring reality with the cyber game and social media world.

On the part of the police, there will have to be a review of airborne response, certainly in the Oslo- Akerhus area and for any otherwise lightly police large scale events and meetings on the entire national basis. Rappalering or fast-roping should be in the police repertoir with 5 minute scramble from bases with 20 minute radii in the Oslo-Akerhus area where over half the population lives. If this availability of 4 or five man teams and helicopters is lacking in the police then there should be an investment in this. Current helicopters can be utilised for some of these actions, plus availability of coast gaurd and military helicopters can be reviewed in order to provide operational radius to cover this area and major gathering of people further afield in the country. Commandeering of private helicopters and flight path perparation to return to pick up points for police helicopters in service should also be considered.

The police earlier this year announced their special forces based police reaction squad, filmed ironically enough, emerging out of water to secure an area in what looked like Oslo Fjord. So the will is there in the police to confront the danger with SAS style force and a military opinion on risk to personnel. The cold feet on the 22nd July was more a result of misinformation from leadership in the local police.