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OSLO (AFP) – Twin shooting and bomb attacks left at least 91 dead in western Europe’s deadliest carnage since the 2004 Madrid bombings as a Norwegian gunman opened fire at a youth camp and a bomb tore through central Oslo.
The suspect was a 32-year-old Norwegian who posted anti-Muslim rhetoric online, police commissioner Sveinung Sponheim told the NRK television channel, but added: “It’s too early to say if this was a motive behind the act.”
Norwegian media named him as Anders Behring Breivik, but police refused to confirm the information.
Police voiced fears that the toll could rise as they searched for victims of the shootings at a summer school meeting organised by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s ruling Labour Party on Utoeya, an island outside the capital.
Security was meanwhile tightened across potential target sites in the capital, police said Saturday, but they lifted an advisory that had urged residents to stay home.
“We have confirmation that at least 90 people are dead. We do not exclude a higher toll,” police spokesman Are Frykholm told AFP, speaking of the shooting spree on the island.
Police had earlier confirmed that seven people were killed when a powerful bomb ripped through central Oslo – where the prime minister’s office and several government buildings are located – and nine were critically injured.
According to the TV2 channel, the arrested suspect has links to right-wing extremists and possessed two weapons registered in his name.
Other Norwegian media reported that he described himself on his Facebook page as “conservative”, “Christian”, and interested in hunting and computer games like World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg said Norway, one of Europe’s most peaceful countries, would not be intimidated.
“People have lived through a nightmare that very few of us can imagine,” he said. “The coming days will show who is responsible and what kind of punishment they will get.
“The message to whoever attacked us, the message from all of Norway is that you will not destroy us, you will not destroy our democracy and our ideals for a better world.”
Western leaders denounced the attacks and vowed solidarity with NATO member Norway, which has forces in Afghanistan and is participating in air strikes in Libya.
Stoltenberg had been due to give a speech on Saturday to the 560 people attending the youth camp on the island.
Witnesses described scenes of panic and horror after the gunman, who police said was wearing a police uniform but had never worked for the police force, opened fire on the youth gathering.
The attacks were the worst in western Europe since the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, which left 191 dead and nearly 2,000 injured.

Australian MP charged with shoplifting

SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian lawmaker known for lampooning the government by dancing in parliament has been charged with shoplifting and assaulting a security guard, but has vowed to fight the allegations.
Conservative MP Mary Jo Fisher is said to have stolen groceries worth almost Aus$100 ($108) from a supermarket last December and pushed a female security officer who tried to stop her leaving the car park.
“In connection with an incident on December 15, 2010, the SA (South Australia State) police charged me on two matters,” she said in a statement released late Friday.
“I reject the charges and will vigorously defend them.”
Liberal party colleagues said she had been suffering from depression and had a panic attack in the supermarket when she realised she didn’t have enough money for the groceries. The court hearing is on September 1.
Fisher shot to national fame in March when she ridiculed the government’s climate change policies by doing a well-known children’s dance, the “Hokey Pokey” in parliament. Footage of the incident went viral on the internet.

Arrest of ‘Pakistani agent’ long overdue

NEW DELHI (AFP) – The arrest of a man accused of acting as a Pakistani government agent in the United States “was long overdue” India’s home secretary said on Saturday, according to a report.
Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, a US citizen detained on Tuesday, is suspected of links to a decades-long effort that allegedly funnelled millions of dollars to Washington to lobby US politicians on behalf of Kashmiri causes.
Commenting on Fai’s arrest, India’s Home Secretary R.K. Singh said: “Yes, his arrest was long overdue,” the Press Trust of India reported.
Fai has been a prominent figure in the politics of Indian Kashmir, racked by a more than two-decade insurgency against New Delhi’s rule.
Kashmir is split between India and Pakistan but both countries claim the Himalayan territory in full.
The US Justice Department said Fai and Zaheer Ahmad, 63, a US citizen and a resident of Pakistan, face five years in prison if found guilty.
The US complaint alleges Fai and Ahmad conspired illegally as Pakistani agents, falsifying and concealing material facts that they had a duty to disclose in dealings with the United States government.
The allegations, which come amid increasingly strained ties between the United States and Pakistan, centre on the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a Washington-based group founded in 1990.
“We had a fair degree of suspicion that the money he (Fai) used to get was given by the agencies in Pakistan,” Singh said on the sidelines of a regional security conference in the Bhutanese capital Thimpu.
The KAC is suspected of being run by Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

Asylum seeker cuts throat in Aussie protest

SYDNEY (AFP) – An asylum seeker cut his throat and dozens more were on hunger strike Saturday at a northern Australian detention centre, refugee activists said, taking immigration protests into their fourth day.
Two men had cut themselves, “one on his arm and one on his throat”, at the remote Scherger detention centre in northern Queensland state, said refugee activist Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
They were among 80 men from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority on hunger strike at the centre, about 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) from Brisbane, some of whom hadn’t eaten or had water for more than 48 hours, said Curr.
“Two men this morning cut themselves, one cut his arms and one cut his throat,” said the activist, who has been in constant contact via telephone with the men.
“There are 80 men sitting out there who are seriously considering killing themselves,” she told AFP.
Immigration officials said there were about 50 people conducting a “peaceful” protest at the centre and there had been some self-harm incidents, but described them as mild.
“Two clients did engage in acts of minor self harm. Their injuries are minor and they are being closely monitored by medical staff,” a spokesman said.
Curr said some of the men had been in detention for 22 months, “sitting and waiting quietly” while detainees rioted at centres in Sydney and on Christmas Island, but they had lost hope and were now using “the only tool they have”.
A number of the men had diabetes, kidney stones and high blood pressure and were refusing their medication in addition to food and water, and Curr warned it was only a matter of time before there were dire consequences.
Two men were already unconscious and one had climbed a tree and threatened to jump, she added.
“They are losing the capacity to make rational judgements,’ she said.

Palestinians meet in Turkey to plan UN strategy

RAMALLAH (AFP) – Palestinian diplomats are convening in Turkey this weekend to finalise their strategy to bolster support for Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will meet his envoys from missions around the world in Istanbul on Saturday and Sunday to discuss ways to gain recognition from as many countries as possible before the General Assembly session in September, his diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi told AFP.
Officials say they are not planning on unilaterally proclaiming a state as they did in Algiers in 1988, nor will they seek recognition from the UN as a whole.
Instead, they will continue to work for endorsement on a state-by-state basis, while applying for membership in the global body.
“There are 117 countries that recognise the Palestinian state within its 1967 borders,” Abbas said during a visit to Spain on Wednesday, pointing to countries in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
“Whatever happens and whatever the reaction and the result of our action at the UN, we know conclusively that we will return to the negotiating table to reach the best solutions with the Israelis,” he said in a speech in Arabic at the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona.
Faced with the promise of a Security Council veto by the United States, which is pressing the Palestinians to resume stalled negotiations with Israel instead, they are considering a range of tactics, without showing their hand.
“We have many other options including in the General Assembly,” Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters in Ramallah on Wednesday.
“I will not tell you which option we will begin with,” he said, saying details would be announced closer to the time.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said at a recent briefing that even if there was overwhelming support in the General Assembly, it was not possible for them to become a member without Security Council approval.
“What you get out of the General Assembly is a resolution that will upgrade your status at the UN from observer to a non-member state,” he said.
Becoming a non-member state would allow the Palestinians to join all the UN agencies, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the child welfare agency UNICEF and the world heritage body, UNESCO, Mansour said.
“We can become party to all treaties and conventions and agreements, with full powers and obligations,” he added.