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TERRORISM

Norway marks 10 years since July 22nd terror attacks

Norway on Thursday marks the 10th anniversary of the worst attacks in its modern history, as church bells toll for the 77 people murdered by neo-Nazi Anders Behring Breivik.

Norway marks 10 years since July 22nd terror attacks
A candle lit by the memorial to the victims of the shooting on the island of Utøya. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

The Scandinavian nation had been mostly spared from extremist violence until July 22, 2011, when Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo that killed eight people before going on a mass shooting at a summer camp for left-wing youths on the island of Utøya.

“I was 16 years old and I couldn’t decide which funerals to go to because there were so many,” said Astrid Eide Hoem, a survivor who has since become head of the Labour Party’s youth league (AUF), which organised the camp.

“I had never lost anyone close to me before, but also now, being in my mid-20s, I think about what would have become of them, the job they might have had, the children…”

A morning memorial ceremony at the government headquarters, church masses and another ceremony on Utoya in the afternoon, will mark the anniversary. At noon church bells nationwide will ring.

Shortly after the attacks, the then-Labour Party prime minister and current NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg promised to respond with “more democracy” and “more humanity”.

‘Driving force’

But 10 years on, many of the survivors of Utoya feel that Norway still has not truly faced up to the ideology that drove Breivik.

“The far-right ideas that inspired the attack are still a driving force for right-wing extremists at home and abroad,” the Norwegian intelligence service (PST) warned this week.

Breivik’s actions had inspired several violent attacks over the past decade, the PST said, including those targeting mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch and Oslo.

On Tuesday, vandals scrawled “Breivik was right” on a memorial for Benjamin Hermansen, who was killed by neo-Nazis in 2001 in what was billed as Norway’s “first racist crime”.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she grew “sad and angry” when she heard of the vandalism.

In 2012, Breivik, then 42, was sentenced to 21 years in prison. His sentence can be extended indefinitely and the extremist will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

A year earlier, Breivik had disguised himself as a police officer and planted the car bomb that shattered the government headquarters in Oslo and killed eight people.

He then made his way to Utøya, where he murdered 69 other victims, most of them teenagers.

For many of the survivors, the psychological trauma remains an open wound.

A third were still suffering last year from major disorders, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and headaches, a recent paper by the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies found.

“When you’ve been through something like this, you don’t go back to being the person you were,” Eide Hoem said.

“I have trouble sleeping, I’m afraid, and I think I’ll have to live with this all my life,” she added.

Elin L’Estrange, another survivor, told AFP: “If someone today tells me that they want me dead, I take it very seriously.”

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TERRORISM

Kongsberg attacker killed victims with ‘sharp object’

Norwegian police said Monday that the five victims of last week's attack were killed by a "sharp object" used by the suspect, not a bow and arrows.

The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident.
The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen on Flickr.

“At some point he discarded or lost his bow and arrows,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters.

He said that during the attack on Wednesday the suspect killed “five people with a sharp object both in private addresses and in public spaces”.

Police, who had previously said that the suspect Espen Andersen Brathen was armed with a bow and arrows and two other weapons, did not specify the nature of the sharp weapons, adding that they were still interviewing witnesses.

“Everything points to the victims being selected at random,” Omholt said.

According to the police, more than 10 people were also shot at with arrows at the start of the attack, but none were killed with this weapon.

READ MORE: Norway police query Kongsberg attacker’s Muslim faith

During police questioning, Brathen has confessed to the killings and to wounding three others.

The 37-year-old Danish citizen has announced publicly that he is a convert to Islam and initially police reported that there had been fears of radicalisation.

He is however being kept in a medical facility pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” Omholt added.

On Saturday, police announced the identities of the five victims, four women and one man: Andrea Meyer, 52, Hanne Merethe Englund, 56, Liv Berit Borge, 75, Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75 and Gun Marith Madsen, 78.

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