HELSINKI – Norway paid tribute Friday to the 77 people killed in a bombing and shooting rampage five years ago, with church services and events to mark one of the darkest days in the Scandinavian country’s history.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg described the day of the massacre – July 22, 2011 – as “one of the darkest days in Norwegian history” that will always be remembered.
“We still see traces of the terrorist acts. The missed ones will always be there. Time does not heal all wounds,” she said at Friday’s memorial ceremony where the names of all those killed were read out. “The biggest impact is felt inside us as human beings.”
Solberg, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit laid wreaths at the government quarters in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, where Anders Behring Breivik exploded a car bomb that killed eight people before driving to the island of Utoya where he gunned down 69 people – mostly teenagers – at a youth summer camp.
Later they attended a memorial service at Oslo Cathedral, which also included victims’ families and friends and representatives of a left-wing youth group that hosted the camp on Utoya.
In 2012, Breivik was convicted of mass murder and terrorism and given a 21-year prison sentence that can be extended for as long as he’s deemed dangerous to society, which legal experts say he will likely be locked up for life.
His attacks in the nation of 5 million traumatized the country, with about one in four people affected through connections with family, friends or acquaintances of the victims.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister at the time of the twin attacks in 2011, said he had painful memories of that day.
“It hurts to hear all the names read out,” Stoltenberg said. “But it’s also good to be with other people who were affected that day, and we give each other support and comfort.”
In the afternoon, a ceremony was to be held on Utoya, a small island situated on a lake surrounded by wooded hills, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Oslo. It reopened to the public a year ago, when 1,000 youth organization students enrolled for a camp held in memory of the victims.