Norway mourns 77 dead ten years after terrorist attack
OSLO, Norway (AP) – Church bells rang across Norway on Thursday, marking the tenth anniversary of the country’s worst peacetime massacre as leaders urged their country to tackle the extremism that was at the origin of the attack.
On July 22, 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Breivik detonated a bomb in the capital, Oslo, killing eight people, before heading to the small island of Utoya where he tracked down and killed 69 members, most of them teenagers, from the youth wing of the Labor Party.
Events took place across the country, including a service in Oslo Cathedral that ended with the first bell ringing. Thousands of people gathered in the streets outside to mourn the 77 victims.
Arriving on crutches, King Harald, 84, took his seat for the service alongside Queen Sonja outside Oslo Cathedral as the country observed a minute of silence.
Speaking in front of 77 roses arranged in the shape of a heart, Jens Stoltenberg, Norwegian Prime Minister at the time of the 2011 attacks, told the congregation that “10 years ago we met hate with love, but the hatred is still there. ”
“The attacker was a right-wing extremist. He abused Christian symbols. He grew up on our streets, belonged to the same religion and had the same skin color as most of this country. He was one of us, ”Stoltenberg said.
“But he’s not one of us who respects democracy. He is one of those who believe they have the right to kill for their political purposes.
Across the country, people listened to emotional survivors read aloud the names of the victims at a televised memorial event.
Some relatives of the victims reflected on how the country faced the massacre and said that “time does not heal all wounds”.
“(The victims) would be proud of the way we reacted after the terror and the strength of the rule of law,” said Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland, whose daughter Synne was murdered by Breivik. Roeyneland now heads the national victim and family support group.
“What would those who were killed so brutally and unfairly 10 years later think of us?” I think they would be sad to know that there are still survivors and bereaved people with great need, ”Roeyneland said.
“I think they would be disappointed to see the public debate in many ways move in the wrong direction,” she added. “I also think they would be proud of us. Proud of the way we reacted in the days following the terrorist attack and how our rule of law has stood firm in the face of brutality. “
Astrid Hoem, a Utoya survivor who now heads AUF, the youth wing of the center-left Labor Party, said “we have not stopped the hate” and urged Norway to continue to confront the racism in the country.
“It’s so brutal that it can be hard to understand,” Hoem said. “But it’s our responsibility to do it. Because 10 years later, we have to tell the truth. We haven’t stopped the hate. Far-right extremism is still alive. The terrorist was one of us.
She was speaking to a group of mourners, including Crown Prince Haakon, Prime Minister Erna Solberg, survivors and families of the victims.
Solberg said it hurt to think back “to that dark July day” and added: “We must not leave the hatred unchallenged. “
“The terrorist attack of July 22 was an attack on our democracy,” said Solberg, Norwegian Prime Minister since 2013. “It was a politically motivated terrorist act against the Labor Party, the AUF and their ideas. But it was not just an attack on a political movement. A whole nation has been hit. But we got up again. But Norway has been changed by an experience that still causes pain.
During a commemorative event on Utoya, Haakon said Norwegians must work together to resist right-wing extremism.
“It is our personal and collective responsibility to work against these forces every day,” he said.
Small boats dot the water around the island, a reminder of attempts by many local residents to save people 10 years ago as Breivik pulled water towards them.
Dignitaries laid flowers in front of a suspended steel memorial on which the names of the island’s 69 victims are inscribed.
The flowers became a symbol of the country’s response to the attacks, when a sea of roses was laid outside Oslo Cathedral in the days following the massacre.
Lewis reported from Kristiansand, Norway.