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Norway has started commemorations to mark 10 years since far-right attacker Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the worst act of violence in the country since World War II.
On July 22, 2011, Breivik detonated a car bomb outside the prime minister’s office in the capital Oslo, killing eight people. Later that same day, he went to Utoya Island disguised as a police officer and carried out a shooting at a Labor Party youth camp that killed 69 people, most of them teenagers.
Thursday’s memorial events kicked off with a memorial service outside what was once the prime minister’s office — an empty shell since the attack amid disagreements over its reconstruction.
The televised service was attended by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, survivors and relatives of the victims, political leaders and members of the Norwegian royal family.
Outside the guarded area, passers-by stopped to listen, and some hugged as the names of the victims were read.
“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 in a speech on the site.
“The terror of July 22 was an attack on our democracy,” she added, before calling on Norwegians to “build a fortified bulwark against intolerance and hate speech, for empathy and tolerance” and to “not let hate go unchecked.” let it continue to exist”.
‘Extremism is still alive’
BreivikThe 42-year-old is serving a 21-year sentence that could be extended indefinitely if he is considered an ongoing threat to society. He will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The debate over his attacks has shifted over the years. Survivors, many of whom were teenagers at the time of the attack, are now determined to confront the far-right ideology that inspired him.
This marks a departure from Norway’s response at the time, when then Labor Party Prime Minister and current NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg pledged to respond with “more democracy” and “more humanity”.
Astrid Hoem, a leader of the Labor Party youth organization AUF and survivor of the Utoya massacre, said at Thursday’s memorial that Norway “has not stopped the hatred” ten years after Breivik’s attacks.
“Ten years later, we must speak the truth… Right-wing extremism is still alive,” she said.
“They live on the internet, they live around the dinner table, they live in many people, so many people… [other] people listen.”
Norwegian intelligence gives warning
Hoem also urged Norway, home to 5.3 million people, to fully face racism in an effort to eradicate it from society and prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
“If we do this now, maybe we can keep our promise of ‘Never again July 22,'” she said.
“The terrorist was one of us. But he doesn’t define who we are – we do.”
Hoem’s comments came after the Norwegian Intelligence Service (PST) warned this week that “the far-right ideas” that inspired Breivik “are still a driving force for right-wing extremists at home and abroad”.
Breivik’s actions had led to several violent attacks over the past 10 years, the PST said, including those targeting mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch and Oslo.
On Tuesday, a memorial to Benjamin Hermansen, who was murdered by neo-Nazis in 2001, was defaced with the slogan “Breivik was right”.
The act was strongly condemned by politicians and the public and is now under investigation by the police.
Thursday’s first event was followed by a service at Oslo Cathedral, after which church bells rang for five minutes across the country from 12 noon local time.
Later in the afternoon, a ceremony is planned on Utoya.
The day’s commemorative events will conclude with an evening ceremony in Oslo, at which Norway’s King Harald is expected to speak.
A group of survivors has created a Twitter account – @aldrilemme (Never forget) – to repost tweets about the attacks as they appeared 10 years ago.
For many of the survivors, the psychological trauma of the events of 2011 remains an open wound.
A third of them still suffered from serious health problems last year, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and headaches, according to a recent article from the Norwegian Center for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies.
“If someone tells me today that they want me dead, I take it very seriously,” Elin L’Estrange, a survivor, told AFP news agency.
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