Oslo (AP) – Norway is commemorating exactly ten years ago the 77 people killed in the terrorist attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utøya.
On the anniversary of the attacks by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, several memorial gatherings and minutes of silence are planned today, in which relatives, relatives, Prime Minister Erna Solberg and representatives of the royal family will participate. King Harald V will give a speech at a national memorial in the evening.
Breivik initially detonated a car bomb in the government district of the Norwegian capital on July 22, 2011, killing eight people. He then drove to the island of Utøya, about 30 kilometers away, where he pretended to be a police officer and opened fire on participants in the annual summer camp of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party youth organization.
69 people, mostly teenagers and young adults, were killed on Utøya. Breivik cited right-wing extremist and Islamophobic motives for his actions. In August 2012, he was sentenced to the then maximum sentence of 21 years in preventive detention with a minimum term of ten years.
“July 22 is a dark memory in our history and we must never forget those who died in the government district and on Utøya,” Prime Minister Solberg said beforehand. July 22 and all other days should be used as a reminder that you have a shared responsibility to deal with extreme attitudes, racism and hate speech. “The fight against hatred and extremism never ends.”
Survivors and their families are still struggling with the long-term effects of the attacks, including anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances. According to a recently published Utøya study, every third person who survived the terror on the island has received hate messages and threats. Most of them attribute this to the fact that they were on Utøya on July 22, 2011.
The immediate reaction of Norwegian society to the attacks was viewed with international admiration. “Our response to violence is even more democracy, more humanity, but never naivety,” then Norwegian Prime Minister and current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time.
In an interview with ZDFheute on the occasion of the tenth anniversary, Stoltenberg said that July 22 was mainly about those who lost their lives and their loved ones. However, the whole country was affected by the acts. “The attacks have had a major impact on Norway and what we are.” Or as Solberg – Stoltenberg’s immediate successor in the highest government office in Norway – put it during a panel discussion at the University of Oslo on Wednesday afternoon: “Some were attacked. But the rest of us were in shock.” The population also felt the pain. “It was a pain for the whole society.”
The problem of right-wing extremist views has not disappeared in Norway after the actions of Oslo and Utøya. A year ago, a young attacker was sentenced to 21 years of protective custody with a minimum of 14 years after attacking a mosque near Oslo on the eve of the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice in August 2019. He was armed with several firearms, but was overpowered and arrested by believers. In his apartment, police later found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister, whom he had killed with four gunshots.
The July 22 commemorations were set to begin Thursday morning with a ceremony in Oslo’s government district. Among other things, the names of all 77 victims should be read there. Stoltenberg will deliver a speech in Oslo Cathedral in the morning, before flowers and wreaths are laid on Utøya later. Crown Prince Haakon also wanted to give a speech on the island. Otherwise, on this day in Norway, during a number of scheduled minutes of silence, not only one thing will prevail: silence.