4 years after mass shooting, Norway's youth reclaim island

Young people from the Norwegian Labour Party's youth division (AUF) at Utoya island yesterday. It was the first AUF summer camp to be held there since 2011, when a right-wing extremist killed 69 people - mostly teenagers - on the island.
Young people from the Norwegian Labour Party's youth division (AUF) at Utoya island yesterday. It was the first AUF summer camp to be held there since 2011, when a right-wing extremist killed 69 people - mostly teenagers - on the island.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

UTOYA (Norway) • Four years after Anders Behring Breivik shot dead 69 people on Utoya island in Norway, about 1,000 Labour Party youngsters gathered yesterday for the first summer camp to be held there since the carnage.

The right-wing extremist killed mainly teenagers during his rampage on July 22, 2011, hunting down participants at a camp of the party's youth wing (AUF) on the tiny island in the middle of a lake.

Determined to reclaim possession of the site, the youngsters - including a handful of survivors - began their annual camp, which ends tomorrow. The atmosphere was relaxed as AUF leader Mani Hussaini told the delegates in his opening speech: "It's good to be back home."

In his only direct reference to the carnage of four years ago, he said: "July 22 will forever be part of Utoya's history... but today, it is also going to move into Utoya's past."

Many of the teenagers arrived on Utoya on Thursday, with a large number pitching their tents near the cafeteria, a poignant symbol of the massacre as Breivik killed 13 there. Bullet holes can still be seen.

Breivik's shooting spree lasted one hour and 13 minutes, as he methodically stalked and killed many of the 600 up-and-coming leaders of Labour, Norway's dominant political party, which he blamed for the rise of multiculturalism.

Trapped on the island of just 12ha, the campers had nowhere to go, some of them throwing themselves into the surrounding chilly waters. Just before the shootings, Breivik had killed eight people with a bomb that exploded near the government headquarters in Oslo.

Breivik is in solitary confinement serving a 21-year prison sentence, which can be extended indefinitely as long as he is considered a danger to society. The wooded island received a facelift ahead of the re-opening.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline '4 years after mass shooting, Norway's youth reclaim island'. Print Edition | Subscribe