The EU is set to introduce stringent tests to regulate the manufacture and sale of fertilisers and other materials used to make home-made bombs in the wake of Anders Behring Breivik’s mass murder in Norway last week (22 July).
The announcement came following an extraordinary meeting of the Council’s terrorism working party (TWP) and counter-terrorism group (COTER) convened in Brussels by the Polish presidency with the participation of the Norwegian authorities.
The Norwegian representatives briefed their European counterparts on the shootings and bomb attack which left at least 76 people dead and outlined the terms of the so-called "22 July Commission", which has been announced by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to investigate the attacks.
The debate – which included representatives of Europol, the European External Action Service and the Commission in addition to the counter-terrorism groups – was designed to give delegates the opportunity to express condolences and solidarity with Norway and the Norwegian people.
Solidarity and clampdown
But the goal was also to exchange information and analysis and to start the process of drawing the lessons of this tragedy in order to better prevent and respond to such attacks in the future.
Timothy Jones, the representative of the EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove, afterwards told journalists that a series of measures had been triggered by the meeting, including the first ever deployment of a new Europol network designed to co-ordinate intelligence information relating to terrorism.
He said that further measures will follow on from the conclusion of Norway’s 22 Commission, including stronger regulatory controls on the manufacture and sale of materials such as fertilisers, used by terrorists including Breivik to make home-made bombs.
The Council had been considering such proposals already, Jones said, but they would now be prioritised in the wake of the attacks.
Use of psychologists to identify ‘Breivik’ cases
He added that a network of counter-terror advisers from different member states would also be convened in due course to see how best to predict and handle the particular type of psychological impulses that drove Breivik, in order to identify such cases earlier.
Asked to confirm if he was satisfied that Breivik had been acting alone, Jones said: “It is clear that he was in contact with other people, but the extent and nature of that contact is not yet fully clear. We need to wait and see what the full results of the police enquiry and the Norwegian commission are.”
The 22 Commission, agreed to by all Norwegian political parties, will analyse everything that happened, including the speed of the police response to Breivik's second attack, on Utoeya island, which has been questioned.
The TWP brings together member states experts for the internal aspects of terrorism mainly representing ministries of interior, while in COTER experts from foreign affairs ministries focus on the external aspects of terrorism. Both groups meet regularly separately and usually twice a semester jointly.
The EU Counter-terrorism coordinator's office takes part in both groups and is responsible for coordinating the EU's overall action on terrorism.
At 15:26 local time on Friday 22 July, a huge blast rocked central Oslo, just outside the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Seven people were killed. At first, the attacks were seen as similar to 2005's bombings of London underground trains and buses, which killed 56, or the 2004 Madrid train bombing, which took 191 lives.
But soon after it became known that a bigger tragedy was unfolding on Utoeya island, about 50km from Oslo. Reportedly a gunman had been shooting indiscriminately at youths from Stoltenberg's Labour Party who were holding there a summer camp.
When the police arrived an hour or so later, the gunner Anders Behring Breivik was apprehended, having already killed at least 86 people. He surrendered without a fight and said he was the author of the blast, and that no other accomplices were involved.
It became known that Breivik had made the bomb using fertiliser and know-how available on the Internet.
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