Breivik report forces Norway police chief to quit

by Aug 17, 2012

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's police chief resigned on Thursday, days after an independent commission found that police could have prevented all or part of a bombing and shooting spree by far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik that killed 77 people.

The bombing of central Oslo and shooting spree at the ruling Labour party's youth camp shook the tiny nation of 5 million people, raising questions about the prevalence of far-right views in Norway and the efficiency of the security services.

Police Chief Oeystein Maeland, who became the head of the police directorate weeks before Breivik's attack on July 22, 2011, has been criticized for his failure to face up to police shortcomings in the aftermath of Norway's worst peacetime violence.

Maeland, a long-time Labour Party politician and the best man at Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's wedding, quit after losing the confidence of Justice Minister Grete Faremo and other politicians, he told news agency NTB.

The commission said intelligence services could have learned about Breivik's plans months before the attack when he purchased bomb-making components, and that police had enough information to stop him as he made his way from the bombing scene to the youth camp.

Pressure has also been mounting on the ruling Labour government since Monday's report.

Still, the fallout on Stoltenberg appeared limited. Seventy-two percent of voters think he does not need to resign over the report, a poll by public broadcaster NRK showed.

Breivik, whose 10-week trial earlier this year gripped international attention, will be sentenced on August 24.

Prosecutors have asked the five judges to declare him insane while Breivik wants to be ruled sane and his attack considered a political statement rather than an act of lunacy.

Breivik, who killed mostly teenagers, including some as young as 14, said his victims were fair targets because they were "brainwashed cultural Marxists" whose support for Muslim immigration threatened Norwegian ethnic purity.

If ruled insane, he faces indefinite mental care while if ruled sane, he would be sentenced to 21 years in prison with the possibility of indefinite extensions.

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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