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Monday, May 27, 2024

‘Can’t believe what we’re hearing’

Some Norwegians were calling Thursday the “worst day ever” in a local court, and attorneys warned that Friday would be even worse. Survivors and families of the victims of last summer’s terrorist attacks in Oslo were severely shaken as they listened to the latest unflinching testimony of the man who carried out what he claims were legitimate executions. Even some attorneys had trouble holding back tears, and the lead prosecutor asked for a recess before one was due.

Anders Behring Breivik was on the witness stand in the fourth day of his trial, and the head of a survivors’ support group called details of his attacks “gruesome” and “grotesque … we can’t believe what we’re hearing.” Yet the survivors’ representative and many others following the Oslo proceedings by video link from all over the country continued to listen to Breivik, claiming it was “necessary” to face their children’s killer and experience his trial as, ultimately, part of their painful healing process.

After a morning full of chilling new details about how Breivik actually planned to bomb three locations in Oslo and then go on a shooting spree downtown, the 33-year-old defendant calmly went on to describe his goals after opting to carry out a massacre on the island of Utøya instead.

Wanted to kill ‘everyone’
“The goal wasn’t to shoot 69 people on Utøya,” he testified. “The goal was to kill everyone.” That would have included nearly 600 people on the island that afternoon of July 22. He said he had trained for the massacre at both a pistol club and by playing online computer war games, and he described how he would shoot for maximum effect. He generally referred to the killings as “executions.”

He also said he viewed the deep, chilly waters of the Tyrifjord as another weapon at his disposal. He predicted that most of his victims would be so scared that they wouldn’t be able to swim across the fjord to the mainland, and would drown instead.

He denied he was “a child murderer,” even though some of his victims were as young as 14 and 15 years old. “Young political activists are a legitimate target,” he said, contending that anyone on the island could be viewed as connected to the Labour Party that he was targeting.

Primary target was Brundtland
As has been reported before, Norway’s former Labour Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was his primary target. He knew she was giving a speech on the island that day, but she left before he arrived. His said his next major target was the leader of the Labour youth organization Eskil Pedersen. He escaped by fleeing with only eight others on the ferry that served the island.

Breivik also testified that he planned to execute Brundtland while he read a statement from a prepared text, and that he also intended to film her execution and publish it on the Internet.

The defendant had testified earlier in the day that “militant nationalists” such as himself are divided in their efforts to defend Europe and, in his case, Norway from an alleged immigrant and Muslim takeover. “Half want to attack Muslims themselves,” he said, while the other half want to attack those responsible for allowing immigration and Muslims into their countries. “I decided it was appropriate to go after those responsible,” he said. Brundtland, he felt, was among them.

More cooperative
After refusing to answer questions more than 140 times during his testimony on Wednesday, Breivik seemed willing to cooperate with the prosecutor’s examination on Thursday. He smiled, responded to nearly all the questions put to him, and has said earlier he’s proud of what he did.

Breivik’s defense attorney Geir Lippestad had warned before the trial began that Breivik’s testimony would be extremely difficult to hear, not least for those who lost loved ones on Utøya. Thursday’s was arguably the most difficult so far. The prosecution will continue to question Breivik about his attack on Utøya on Friday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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