Massacre survivors return to death island where gunman slaughtered 69
UTVIKA, NORWAY // Survivors of the massacre of 69 people at a youth camp on a Norwegian island yesterday revisited the scene of the killings to grieve their lost friends.
As a many as 1,000 survivors and relatives were expected on Utoeya island, accompanied by police and medical staff, to face the painful memories of the shooting spree by a right-wing extremist.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he too would visit Utoeya, "to take part in their mourning and be there for them [the survivors]".
"I will be there as a friend, as a prime minister," he said.
Anders Behring Breivik has admitted killing 77 people on July 22 when he first detonated a bomb outside government offices in the capital, Oslo, and then went on a shooting spree on the island, some 40 kilometres away.
Breivik denies criminal guilt because he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway and Europe. He said the attacks were an attempt at cultural revolution, aimed at purging Europe of Muslims and punishing politicians that have embraced multiculturalism.
On Friday, the Oslo District Court extended Breivik's isolation detention by another four weeks saying it still does not know if he acted alone.
Police said they wanted to keep Breivik in isolation because they didn't want him to talk to other inmates, although they still believe he acted alone.
Breivik's case is not expected to open until next year.
If found guilty on terrorism charges, he could be sentenced to 21 years in prison. An alternative custody arrangement - if he is still considered a danger to the public - could keep him behind bars indefinitely.
Near Utoeya, Norway's General Director of Health Bjoern Inge Larsen told reporters he hoped the visits to the island would help survivors and families of the victims come to grips with the deaths.
"The people going there today ... have a lot of anxiety," Mr Larsen said, as he prepared to accompany survivors onto Utoeya. "They were life-threatened on this island four weeks ago in a very traumatising manner, so what we are prepared for is to help them to overcome that anxiety."
In the distance, ferries and a pontoon transported survivors, in bright orange life vests, to the forested island used by the ruling Labour Party for political functions, camping and celebrations.
Per Brekke, logistics chief of the operation, said planning the visits had been a big challenge.
"But, of course, the challenge for each individual to re-enter the island is much bigger," he said.
The heavily guarded island, where 400 healthcare workers, police and other officials escorted the survivors, was visited on Friday by families and friends of the victims killed in the shooting spree.
Today, a national memorial service is to be held at Oslo Spektrum arena, marking the end of a month of mourning in the Scandinavian country.
* Associated Press
Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM