Naharnet

Norway Marks Anniversary of Breivik's Massacre

Norwegians on Sunday marked a year since Anders Behring Breivik's massacre claimed 77 lives, many heading to the island of Utoeya where most of the right-wing extremist's mainly teenage victims fell.

"Let us honor the dead by savoring life," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the atrocity that stunned the usually tranquil nation.

Exactly a year ago Breivik set off a bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people, before going on a shooting rampage on Utoeya, where the governing Labor Party's youth wing was hosting a summer camp.

There he killed 69 people, with the youngest victim having just celebrated her 14th birthday.

"The bomb and bullets were aimed at changing Norway," Stoltenberg said. "The Norwegian people responded by embracing our values. The killer failed, the people won."

By midday, several dozen relatives of the victims had begun gathering on Utoeya, which lies some 40 kilometers from the capital, pausing at the spots where their loved ones were mowed down by the gunman's bullets.

"We stuck together at the most difficult time our generation has ever experienced. Today as well, take care of one another," survivor Adrian Pracon said in a tweet.

"Mixed feelings but we will have a good day and remember those who never went home. It'll do us good," tweeted another, Marte Oedegaarden.

The extremist, now 33, said he carried out the attacks to protect his country against "the Muslim invasion" and said he had targeted the Labor Party for its immigration policies and support for a multicultural society.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a message of sympathy to the Norwegian people for this "enormous tragedy."

Breivik, whose 10-week trial ended last month, is awaiting his verdict, expected August 24.

While there is no doubt he carried out the attacks, the five Oslo court judges must decide whether he should be considered criminally sane and sentenced to prison, as requested by his defense, or instead follow the prosecution's line and send him to a closed psychiatric ward.

The Labor prime minister, who was at his official residence and not in his office in the 17-storey main building at the time, began Sunday's commemorations by laying a wreath near the spot where the bomb went off.

The streets around the government complex reopened only last week after the removal of more than 4,300 tons of rubble, at a cost of more than 300 million kroner (40 million euros, $48 million).

Stoltenberg is attending many of the most heart-wrenching events commemorating the worst atrocity carried out on Norwegian soil since World War II.

Norway's king and queen joined him at a service at Oslo's cathedral, where hundreds of people were gathered outside, laying heaps of roses -- the Labor Party symbol -- as they did in the weeks after the attacks.

Stoltenberg will later address Labor Party youth on Utoeya along with his Danish counterpart Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the head of the Labor Party youth wing Eskil Pedersen, who escaped at the start of the massacre.

Stoltenberg will meet family members of Breivik's victims and lay a second wreath on the heart-shaped island at 6:45 pm -- almost exactly the time that Breivik was finally arrested after his more than hour-long shooting spree.

Stoltenberg is also set to attend a commemorative concert outside Oslo city hall featuring mainly Norwegian musicians and possibly Bruce Springsteen.

Norwegian folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen, who in April led some 40,000 rose-waving protesters to sing a song derided by Breivik, will also perform.

Norway's professional football teams will observe a minute of silence before all games played Sunday.

Source: Agence France Presse


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