Bells have ringed 10 years since neo-Nazi Breivik killed 77 people in Norway

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Church bells across Norway rang for five minutes on Thursday to mark ten years since Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right extremist, killed 77 people, most of them teenagers in a youth camp.

Breivik, a white supremacist seeking to bring about a fascist revolution by violent means, detonated a car bomb outside the prime minister’s office in Oslo, killing eight, before driving to the island of Utoeya and shooting 69 people in a youth camp run by the Workers’ Party on July 22, 2011.

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On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Erna Solberg addressed a memorial service attended by survivors and relatives of the victims, political leaders and the Norwegian Crown Prince and Crown Princess.

“It hurts to think back to that dark day in July ten years ago. Today we mourn together. Today we commemorate the 77 who never came home,” Solberg said.

The memorial was held in central Oslo, outside what was once the prime minister’s office – an empty shell since the attack due to disagreements over its reconstruction. People passing past the secure perimeter stopped to listen and some hugged as the names of the victims were read.

Breivik, 42, is serving a 21-year sentence, which could be extended indefinitely if he is considered an ongoing threat to society.

The debate about the attacks has shifted over the years.

Survivors, many of whom were teenagers at the time, are now determined to confront the far-right ideology that was a catalyst for the attack.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Workers’ Youth League (AUF) leader Astrid Hoem and a support group leader Lisbeth Kristine Roeyneland attend a memorial service in the government district 10 years after the Oslo island and Utoeya bombing, in Oslo, Norway , on July 22, 2021. (Reuters)

This is different from Norway’s response at the time, which emphasized unity and consensus, with Jens Stoltenberg, the then Prime Minister of the Labor Party, calling Breivik’s actions an attack on Norway and democracy.

“Ten years later, we must speak the truth. We haven’t stopped the hate. Right-wing extremism is still alive,” said Astrid Hoem, leader of the PvdA youth organization AUF, and a survivor of the Utoeya attack, at the commemoration.

“The terrorist was one of us. But he doesn’t define who we are — we do,” Hoem said.

After ten years, it was time to reject racism and hatred once and for all, Hoem said. “Because if we do this now, maybe we can deliver on our promise of ‘Never again July 22’.”

During a service at Oslo Cathedral, Stoltenberg, now NATO Secretary General, pointed to recent incidents of far-right violence, including continued death threats against survivors of the attacks and the vandalism of a memorial to 2001 teenage hate crime victim Benjamin Hermansen. , with the tagline “Breivik was right” earlier this week.

“Ten years ago we met hate with love. But the hatred is still there,” said Stoltenberg. “We are reminded again and again that democracy is not won once and for all. We have to fight for it day in and day out.”

After the service, at 1210 CET (1010 GMT), church bells across the country rang for five minutes.

Ten years ago, the Norwegian public expressed their grief with red roses – a symbol of the Labor Party – and other flowers in front of the cathedral, and on Thursday passers-by again carry roses to the same place in tribute.

Utoeya’s victims came from all parts of the country and memorial services are held all over Norway, with flowers being laid in other cities as well.

Later there will also be a ceremony on Utoeya and the day will be concluded with an evening ceremony in Oslo where King Harald will speak.

A group of survivors has set up a Twitter account @aldriglemme (Never forget) to repost tweets about the attack as they appeared 10 years ago.

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