Norway mourns 77 slain a decade ago in extremist attack
OSLO, Norway (AP) — Church bells rang out across Norway on Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of the country’s worst peacetime slaughter as leaders called for renewed efforts to fight the extremism behind the attack that left 77 people dead.
Norway was united in “shock, grief and anger,” said King Harald, speaking at an evening memorial service where he apologized that not enough was done to curb what he called “the dark forces” in society.
On July 22, 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Breivik set off a bomb in the capital of Oslo, killing eight people. Then he headed to tiny Utoya island, where he stalked the mostly teen members of the Labor Party’s youth wing, killing another 69.
Memorials were held across the country, including a service in Oslo Cathedral that ended with a ringing of bells as thousands gathered outside.
The 84-year-old monarch arrived at the cathedral on crutches and took his seat for the service beside Queen Sonja for a minute of silence.
Jens Stoltenberg, who was prime minister at the time of the attack, told the congregation that “10 years ago, we met hatred with love, but the hatred is still there.”
“The perpetrator was a right-wing extremist. He misused Christian symbols. He grew up in our streets, belonged to the same religion and had the same skin color as the majority in this country. He was one of us,” Stoltenberg said, speaking in front of 77 roses that were arranged in the shape of a heart.
“But he is not one of us, who respects democracy. He is one of those who believe they have the right to kill for their political objectives,” he added.
At an evening service, Harald said he hoped Norwegians “can help each other live the lessons from July 22 every day, in everything we are and do.”
“At the same time, we must acknowledge that we as a society have not done nearly enough to see, to help, to carry the burden together, and to counteract the dark forces,” the king said. “I am sorry about this.”
Earlier in the day, emotional survivors read aloud the names of the victims.
Some parents of the victims reflected on how the country has coped since the massacre, saying that “time does not heal all wounds.”
“What would those who were so brutally and unfairly killed think of us now 10 years later? I think they would be sad to know that there still are survivors and bereaved with great needs,” said Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland, whose daughter, Synne, was killed by Breivik. Roeyneland runs the national support group for victims and families.
“I think they would be disappointed in seeing the public debate in many ways has moved in the wrong direction,” she added. “I also think they would be proud of us. Proud of how we reacted in the days after the terrorist attack and how our state under the rule of law firmly stood its ground in the face of brutality.”
Astrid Hoem, a survivor from Utoya who leads the AUF, the youth wing of the center-left Labor Party, said, “We have not stopped the hatred,” and urged Norway to face up to the racism in the country.
“It is so brutal that it can be difficult to fathom,” Hoem said. “But it’s our responsibility to do so. Because 10 years on, we must speak the truth. We haven’t stopped the hatred. Far-right extremism is still alive. The terrorist was one of us.”
She spoke 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 “on that dark July day” and added: “We must not leave hate unchallenged.”
“The terror attack on the 22nd of July was an attack on our democracy,” said Solberg, who has been prime minister since 2013. “It was a politically motivated terrorist act towards the Labor Party, AUF and their ideas. But it wasn’t just an attack on a political movement. A whole nation was struck. But we rose again. But Norway was changed by an experience which still causes pain.”
At a commemorative event on Utoya, Haakon said Norwegians must work together to fight right-wing extremism.
“It is our personal and collective responsibility to work against these forces every day,” he said.
Small boats dotted the water around the island, a reminder of attempts by many residents to rescue people 10 years ago while Breivik fired toward them.
Dignitaries laid flowers at a memorial, inscribed with the names of 69 victims who were killed on the island.
The flowers have become a symbol of the country’s response to the attack, when roses were piled outside Oslo Cathedral in the days after the slaughter.
Lewis reported from Kristiansand, Norway.