A defiant Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg went on national TV in Norway Friday night and said he had a message “to those who attacked us and those who were behind this.” He said it was a message “from all of Norway:”
“You will not destroy us,” the grim prime minister said. “You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world.
“We are a small country nation, but a proud nation. No one shall bomb us to silence, no one shall shoot us to silence, no one shall scare us out of being Norway.”
Stoltenberg heads Norway’s Labour Party, its coalition government and has been prime minister for the past six years after winning re-election in 2009. He was deeply shaken, first by a massive explosion in the heart of the government complex in downtown Oslo and then by what was shaping up Friday night as a massacre at a summer camp for youth members of the Labour Party on an island in the Tyri Fjord, about an hour’s drive from Oslo. By midnight Friday, police had confirmed that 17 persons were killed in both attacks, and the death toll was likely to rise. Many more were critically injured in the bomb blast and wounded in shootings on the island.
“This is all about attacks on innocent civilians, on youth at a summer camp,” Stoltenberg told the nation. He said the top priority was to save the lives of the injured and wounded.
“Tonight we will take care of each other,” he said. “We mourn our dead, we suffer with the wounded. Norway stands firm in times of crisis. We will mourn our dead. Tomorrow we shall prove that the Norwegian democracy will be even stronger.”
Stoltenberg described the attacks as “shocking, bloody and cowardly,” noting that they came “so brutally, so abruptly.” The explosion, possibly from a car bomb, went off just before 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon when most government workers are off on annual July summer holidays, or had already quit work for the day. Otherwise the casualties surely would have been much higher.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget, who has responsibility for the police in Norway, joined Stoltenberg at the late-night press conference and said it had been “a very tough day” for Norway. He also referred to the attacks as “monstrous” and “cowardly,” against innocent and unarmed persons. He said all available resources were pressed into service “to find the culprits and hold them responsible.”
Neither Stoltenberg nor Storberget could say what the ultimate target or motive was. Stoltenberg said that Norway’s tradition of political youth camps, used by most all of the country’s political parties, “are among the finest features of our democracy.” The gunman on the island of Utøya, though, seemed motivated to eliminate members of the next generation of politicians and lawmakers in Norway. “It’s difficult to believe we can be confronted by something like this,” Storberget said.
Stoltenberg said he had received calls from all the Nordic prime ministers and condolences as well from many other state leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo nearly two years ago.
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