Norway mourns victims of anti-Islam “Crusader”6 min read . Updated: 25 Jul 2011, 01:01 AM IST
Norway mourns victims of anti-Islam “Crusader”
Norway mourns victims of anti-Islam “Crusader”
Sundvollen: Norway mourned on Sunday 93 people killed in a shooting spree and car bombing by a Norwegian who saw his attacks as “atrocious, but necessary" to defeat liberal immigration policies and the spread of Islam.
In his first comment via a lawyer since his arrest, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, said he wanted to explain himself at a court hearing on Monday about extending his custody.
In a rambling manifesto before the attacks, Breivik said he was part of a crusade to fight a tide of Islam.
“He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary," Geir Lippestad said.
The lawyer said Breivik had admitted to Friday’s shootings at a Labour party youth camp and the bombing that killed seven people in Oslo’s government district a few hours earlier.
However, “he feels that what he has done does not deserve punishment," Lippestad told NRK public television.
“What he has said is that he wants a change in society and in his understanding, in his head, there must be a revolution."
Oslo’s acting police chief Sveinung Sponheim confirmed to reporters that Breivik would be able to speak to the court. It was not clear whether the hearing would be closed or in public.
“He has admitted to the facts of both the bombing and the shooting, although he’s not admitting criminal guilt," Sponheim said, adding that Breivik had said he acted alone.
Police were checking this because some witness statements from the island spoke of more than one gunman, Sponheim said.
The violence, Norway’s worst since World War II, has profoundly shocked the usually peaceful nation of 4.8 million.
King Harald and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg were among mourners at a service in Oslo cathedral, where the premier spoke emotionally about the victims, some of whom he knew.
“This represents a national tragedy," he declared.
Tearful people placed flowers and candles outside the cathedral. Soldiers with guns and wearing bullet-proof vests blocked streets leading to the government district.
Police said Breivik surrendered when they arrived on the small island of Utoeya in a lake northwest of Oslo after he had shot dead at least 85 people, mostly young people attending a summer camp of the youth wing of Norway’s ruling Labour Party.
About 650 people were on the island when Breivik, wearing a police uniform, opened fire. Police said it took them an hour from when they were first alerted to stop the massacre, the worst by a single gunman in modern times.
An inadequate boat and a decision to await a special armed unit from Oslo, 45 km away, delayed the response.
“When so many people and equipment were put into it, the boat started to take on water, so that the motor stopped," said Erik Berga, police operations chief in Buskerud County.
A person wounded in the shooting died in hospital, raising the death toll to 93, Norway’s NRK television said. Police say some people remain missing. Ninety-seven people were wounded.
Otto Loevik had to decide who to pick up on his boat and who to leave behind as he came under fire trying to rescue fleeing teenagers. “He remembers the faces of the youths he left behind," Loevik’s wife, Wenche, told Reuters.
“He told me: ‘I had to chose who to pick up on the boat and who to leave behind. Who do you choose?´," she said. Her husband, who declined to be interviewed, rescued some 40 to 50 terrified youths.
Norwegian police said a British police officer was providing technical expertise in the investigation but that they had not requested any separate inquiries in foreign countries.
Breivik posted a 1,500-page manifesto, written in English, on Friday, describing his violent philosophy and how he planned his onslaught and made explosives.
The killings would draw attention to the manifesto entitled “2083-A European Declaration of Independence", Breivik wrote.
“Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike," he added.
The manifesto posted by Breivik, a self-styled founder member of a modern Knights Templar organisation, hints at a wider conspiracy of self-appointed crusaders and shows a mind influenced by the fantasy imagery of online gaming.
“The order is to serve as an armed Indigenous Rights Organisation and as a Crusader Movement (anti-Jihad movement)," he writes in the document, chunks of which are cut and pasted from other far-right, anti-Islam documents on the Internet.
Breivik says he is not against immigrants who integrate and reserves a lot of his fury for a liberal European political establishment he views as promoting Europe’s destruction.
He hints at a wider conspiracy in the document, saying that the Knights Templar, a medieval order of crusading warrior monks, had been reconstituted in London in 2002.
Breivik attacks the “Islamic colonisation and Islamisation of Western Europe" and the “rise of cultural Marxism/multi-culturalism".
A video posted on YouTube called “Knights Templar 2083" showed pictures of Breivik, including one of him in a scuba diving outfit pointing an automatic weapon.
Parliament, in recess until October, is to be recalled for a memorial service. Party leaders will discuss how the attacks would affect campaigning for local elections in September.
“We will have an election, we will have a political debate," said Stoltenberg, Premier and Labour Party leader.
“But I believe everyone understands that we have to discuss the form of the debate ... to avoid a conflict between the political debate and the need to show dignity and compassion."
Erna Solberg, head of the main opposition Conservative Party, said: “We have to agree the rules of the game."
Norway has long been open to immigration, which has been criticised by the populist Progress Party, to which Breivik once belonged. Labour, whose youth camp he attacked, backs multi-culturalism to accommodate different ethnic communities.
“Norway will keep going. But there will be a Norway before and after the dramatic attacks on Friday," Stoltenberg said.
“But I am quite sure that you will also recognise Norway afterwards , it will be an open Norway, a democratic Norway and a Norway where we take care of each other."
The attacks have prompted soul-searching in Norway.
At Oslo cathedral, Britt Aanes, a priest aged 42 said the fact that Breivik was Norwegian had affected people deeply.
“In one way, I think it was good that it was not a Muslim terrorist group behind this," she said. It pointed up the complexity of immigration and inter-religious issues for Norwegians, “a small and privileged people", she said.
“We must open our eyes and not simply think that we can keep all this wealth to ourselves."
Some analysts questioned whether Norway, focused on al Qaeda-type militancy, had overlooked domestic threats.
“While the main terrorist threat to democratic societies around the world still comes from Islamist extremists, the horrific events in Norway are a reminder that white far-right extremism is also a major and possibly growing threat," said James Brandon, research head at London’s Quilliam think-tank.
Home-grown anti-government figures have struck elsewhere, notably in the United States, where Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with a truck bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Grief was still raw for survivors and relatives clustered at a hotel in Sundvollen near Utoeya island. They huddled together, many with bloodshot eyes, at terrace tables.