Norway's deadliest tragedy

Death toll rises to 91 as police discover more victims of Norwegian gunman.

The horrific attacks in Norway were initially thought to have claimed around 20 lives. But it's now clear that that figure was a dramatic underestimate. The latest reports put the death toll at 91, with seven killed in the car bomb attack in Oslo and 84 killed on the island of Utoya, where a man dressed as a police officer opened fire on a youth meeting of the country's Labour Party.

Many rushed to the assumption that the attacks were the work of an Islamist terrorist group. The New York Times reported that a group called Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami (the Helpers of the Global Jihad) had claimed responsibility, allegedly describing the attack as "a response to Norwegian forces' presence in Afghanistan and to unspecified insults to the Prophet Muhammad". However, the paper later reported American officials as saying that "the group was previously unknown and might not even exist".

It now appears that the atrocities were committed by a lone right-wing extremist, leading Norwegian officials to conclude that the attack is "probably more Norway's Oklahoma City than it is Norway's World Trade Center." Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old Norwegian arrested in connection with both attacks, described himself on his Facebook page (now unavailable) as a conservative and a Christian. A Twitter account apparently belonging to him, featured this post from last Sunday: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests." The decision to target the centre of Oslo, which houses the offices of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, as well as a Labour meeting, suggests that the motive was political.

Significantly, Stoltenberg, who was due to address the youth meeting today, has responded by calling for "more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence". No calls for revenge, no overblown rhetoric, just a quiet determination that this proud, egalitarian nation will go on as before.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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As the strangers approach the bed, I wonder if this could be a moment of great gentleness

I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do.

It’s 1.13am on an autumn morning some time towards the end of the 20th century and I’m awake in a vast hotel bed in a small town in the east of England. The mysterious east, with its horizons that seem to stretch further than they should be allowed to stretch by law. I can’t sleep. My asthma is bad and I’m wheezing. The clock I bought for £3 many years earlier ticks my life away with its long, slow music. The street light outside makes the room glow and shimmer.

I can hear footsteps coming down the corridor – some returning drunks, I guess, wrecked on the reef of a night on the town. I gaze at the ceiling, waiting for the footsteps to pass.

They don’t pass. They stop outside my door. I can hear whispering and suppressed laughter. My clock ticks. I hear a key card being presented, then withdrawn. The door opens slowly, creaking like a door on a Radio 4 play might. The whispering susurrates like leaves on a tree.

It’s an odd intrusion, this, as though somebody is clambering into your shirt, taking their time. A hotel room is your space, your personal kingdom. I’ve thrown my socks on the floor and my toothbrush is almost bald in the bathroom even though there’s a new one in my bag because I thought I would be alone in my intimacy.

Two figures enter. A man and a woman make their way towards the bed. In the half-dark, I can recognise the man as the one who checked me in earlier. He says, “It’s all right, there’s nobody in here,” and the woman laughs like he has just told her a joke.

This is a moment. I feel like I’m in a film. It’s not like being burgled because this isn’t my house and I’m sure they don’t mean me any harm. In fact, they mean each other the opposite.

Surely they can hear my clock dripping seconds? Surely they can hear me wheezing?

They approach, closer and closer, towards the bed. The room isn’t huge but it seems to be taking them ages to cross it. I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do. I should speak. I should say with authority, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” But I don’t.

I could just lie here, as still as a book, and let them get in. It could be a moment of great gentleness, a moment between strangers. I would be like a chubby, wheezing Yorkshire pillow between them. I could be a metaphor for something timeless and unspoken.

They get closer. The woman reaches her hand across the bed and she touches the man’s hand in a gesture of tenderness so fragile that it almost makes me sob.

I sit up and shout, “Bugger off!” and they turn and run, almost knocking my clock from the bedside table. The door crashes shut shakily and the room seems to reverberate.

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge