OSLO, Norway – Religious services, wreath-laying ceremonies, commemorative gatherings and a concert are scheduled across Norway Sunday, July 22, on the first anniversary of twin attacks that killed 77 people.
On July 22, 2011 right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik first set off a bomb near the government building in Oslo, killing eight people, before going on a shooting rampage on nearby Utoya island, where the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing was hosting a summer camp.
He killed 69 people on the island, most of them teens, with the youngest having just celebrated her 14th birthday.
Numerous events are scheduled in and around Oslo, and especially at the sites of the two attacks, in memory of the victims of the worst atrocity carried out on Norwegian soil since World War II.
Religious services and commemorative gatherings will also be held from the very south of the country to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, some 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) from the North Pole.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who made a deep impression shortly after the massacre with his vow that Norway’s response to the bloodbath would be “more democracy, more openness and more humanity, but never naivety”, will be present at many of the the most heart-wrenching events.
The Labour Party leader is scheduled to lay a wreath at the site of the Oslo bombing at 9:30 am (0730 GMT) before attending, with Norway’s king and queen, a service at the city’s cathedral, which in the weeks after the attacks was surrounded by an ocean of roses left by mourners.
At 2:10 pm, the prime minister will give a speech for Labour Party youth on Utoya before meeting with family members of Breivik’s victims and laying a second wreath on the island at 6:45 pm — almost exactly the time that Breivik was finally arrested there after his more than hour-long shooting spree.
To wrap up the emotionally trying day, Stoltenberg is set to attend a commemorative concert outside the Oslo city hall featuring mainly Norwegian musicians and, perhaps, Bruce Springsteen, starting at 8:00 pm.
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 there.
Roses, the symbol of Breivik’s main target, the Labour Party, are expected to be omnipresent, while Norway’s professional football teams have agreed to observe a minute of silence before all games played Sunday out of respect for Breivik’s victims.
The Labour prime minister in neighboring Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is also scheduled to speak on Utoya, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already delivered a message of sympathy to the Norwegian people for this “enormous tragedy.”
Eskil Pedersen, who heads the Labour Party youth wing and who escaped Utoya at the beginning of the shooting massacre, last week hailed Norway’s reaction to the tragedy.
“There are … a few things that have developed in the right direction,” he told the NTB news agency, saying he was especially pleased that political youth groups had seen their membership numbers soar.
“We have more democracy now because more people are participating,” he said.
Breivik, whose 10-week trial ended last month, is meanwhile awaiting his verdict.
While there is no doubt he carried out the attacks, the five Oslo court judges must decide if the 33-year-old should be considered criminally sane and sentenced to prison, as requested by his defence, or instead follow the prosecution’s line and send him to a closed psychiatric ward.
The verdict should be announced on August 24. – Pierre-Henry Deshayes, Agence France-Presse
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