This story is absolutely crazy. I heard about this on an episode of MyFavoriteMurder and when I was searching for June events, this rang a bell. This one is pretty bonkers. Additionally, I was so excited to write about it I convinced my brain that it happened on June 22nd and had this prepared to publish a month ago before I realized it happened in July.
On July 22 in Norway, a car bomb exploded in Oslo. It killed 8 people and injured 209. However, the car bomb was just a ruse to get law enforcement preoccupied for the bigger attack. Less than 2 hours after the explosion, the perpetrator arrived on an island hosting the Workers' Youth League summer camp and killed 77 people.
The attack was the deadliest in Norway since World War II and the shooting remains the deadliest mass shooting by a lone perpetrator in history. A survey showed that 1 in 4 Norwegians knew at least 1 person who was personally affected.
The perpetrator was a right-wing extremist, and he was arrested for both of the attacks. He was charged and sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum allowed in the country, but it can be continually extended if the person is still deemed a threat to society.
The killer was identified as Anders Behring Breivik. While in custody, he underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and was criminally insane. However, the report was criticized and a second report determined that he was completely sane. The ultimate verdict was that he was not insane in any way during the attacks, and did not have any mental health conditions that would have sparked them.
His extreme political and religious views were the real reason for the attack. He was extremely Islamophobic and racist. He had a "militant far-right ideology and xenophobic worldview". He promoted violence against leftists and Islamists and believed that Christianity was the only religion that should be preserved. He wished for Hindus to drive Muslims out of India, and blamed feminism for the "erosion of the fabric of European society."
Breivik claimed to have begun preparation for his attack back in 2002, when he was only 23 years old. He figured he would attack in 2009 at the earliest, but he was able to conceal his violent intentions from those close to him.
In 2010, he spent about a week in Prague, and though it is one of the safest European capitals, he was concerned for his personal safety while visiting, considering it a place full of criminals. He was there hoping to buy a slew of firearms to carry out the attacks.
He had a fake police badge and fake uniform to try to purchase the weapons, but he was unable to acquire any firearms due to the strict firearm policies in Prague. He planned to go to Germany or Serbia to buy weapons if his Prague plan was foiled. But his disappointment at his failed purchase lead him to try to just buy a gun legally in Norway, where he was able to obtain a legal permit for a semi-automatic carbine, for "hunting", he claimed.
For his second gun, a pistol, he had to prove regular attendance at a sport shooting club, which proved a bit more difficult. He purchased ten 30-round magazines from the United States while attending 15 training sessions at the Oslo Pistol Club so he would be able to purchase his pistol.
He also purchased sodium nitrate from Poland, which put him on a watch list, but the Norwegian intelligence did not act on it because they did not believe his purchases to be relevant to any terror concerns.
THE FIRST ATTACK: THE BOMBING
In order to distract law enforcement from coming in droves to his second planned attack, he had to get their attention. He did this with a car bomb, which was placed in a Volkswagon Crafter and parked on a street in Oslo. It detonated at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2011.
The car was parked in front of the H Block which housed various important buildings, including the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Justice and Police, and several other government buildings.
In surveillance footage, the car is seen driving around before parking the van in front of the H Block. He stood outside for about 7 seconds, where it was determined he was dressed as a police officer, before quickly walking towards an area where he had parked another car.
The explosion started fires throughout the H Block and blew out windows in various buildings in the area. Streets were filled with glass and debris, and the blast was heard over 4.3 miles away from the central site. The police quickly received word about the explosion and arrived at the scene. A witness quickly reported information about the perpetrator and the car he entered, but it was not transmitted via police radio for another 2 hours.
Police spent the immediate aftermath searching for additional explosives, and urging residents to get out of Oslo.
8 people were killed in the explosion. The blast, shock waves and debris killed 6 people immediately, and 2 died soon after of their wounds. At least 209 people were injuries, though most were minor. Only 12 people experienced more serious injuries. The deceased ranged in age from 26 to 61.
After the explosion, the area surrounding the damaged buildings was cornered off and evacuated. People were asked to remain calm and evacuate if possible, but no official evacuation orders were given.
THE SECOND ATTACK: THE UTOYA MASSACRE
Breivik's plan was going perfectly. Everyone was focused on the explosion in Oslo, allowing him to slip away, undetected, to carry out the true attack. About an hour and a half after the initial explosion, he boarded a ferry to the island of Utoya, the location of the Norwegian Labour Party's AUF summer camp, attended by approximately 600 teenagers. He was dressed as a police officer.
Arriving at the island, he introduced himself as a police officer who had been sent for a routine check following the bombing in Oslo. However, because he was an extremist loon, he did not give off the impression of an actual cop to the camp leader who greeted him, Monica Bosei, who alerted the security officer on the island. However, he killed them both. Then, he started firing.
As they were on an island, there was nowhere to escape. When he started shooting, people began jumping into the water, trying to swim across the lake to survival. Survivors from the carnage described a "scene of terror", with people being shot left and right, while others were shot while trying to swim their way to safety. People would try to play dead, but he would come back and shoot them again just to be sure. He shot without a care, until he spared an 11-year-old boy who's father had been murdered during the shooting, as well as a 22-year-old man who begged for his life.
The terrified camp goers hid in bathrooms and undergrowth, texting one another to avoid revealing where they were, but to alert everyone of where he was.
Breivek shot at the 600+ teens and counselors for over 90 minutes until finally, a police special task force arrived and he surrendered, though he still had plenty of ammunition remaining.
Bosei, the woman who alerted security to the suspicious "cop", died, but her husband and daughter who were also on the island survived. The youngest victim was only 14 years old. The last victim was shot nearly an hour after the shooting began. I cannot imagine a situation where a shooting lasts for over an hour. The fear of feeling like it will never end, like no one is coming for you.
Residents in motorboats and fishing dinghies sailed out to help rescue the survivors, both from the island and those bleeding in the water. Some survivors were still hiding, refusing to come out, while others were found still playing dead. Several campers were able to swim to the island's west side and hid in the caves. 47 campers were able to hide in "the School House", as Breivik was not able to get through the door. Some teenagers were able to hide 23 children in a cave-like opening in a rock, while one stood guard outside, only leaving to drag 3 children from the lake who were near drowning.
The first shot was fired at 5:22 PM, and emergency services were informed 2 minutes later. However, they did not have a helicopter which would have brought them straight to the island in a much quicker fashion. 8 minutes after the original call, the anti-terror police were on the way to the island by car.
Marcel Gleffe, a German resident staying on the mainland, was the first to arrive at the scene. He had heard gunshots and took his boat to the island to throw life-jackets to the youngsters in the water, rescuing many children on his 4-5 trips back and forth. He was credited with saving upwards of 30 lives. Another 40 were saved by Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen, a married couple who was on vacation in the area. Dalen helped on land while Hansen and a neighbor went back and forth to rescue people in the water. Several more kids were rescued by Kasper Illaug, who made 3 trips to the island. When he originally got a call that something happened, he assumed it was a prank, but acted anyway. In total, about 150 kids and teens who swam away from the island were pulled out by kind, selfless campers from the opposite shore.
The anti-terror police, having had to travel by car and then wait for a boat, did not reach Utoya until 6:25 PM. They were unable to take the ferry, as it was under investigation because 9 people left the island via the ferry when Breivik arrived, so they used their own inflatable boat. However, when it took on water and stopped working, they boarded a civilian boat, leaving the 2 civilians on it as to not waste time. Many people criticized the police for not using a helicopter, and for endangering the couple who drove the civilian boat.
When they arrived, the survivors begged them to throw away their weapons, as they believed, because Breivik was uniformed, that they were going to begin shooting, too. Breivik surrendered upon their arrival, dropping his weapons when they said to stop or they would shoot.
Originally, it was reported that "at least 10 people" had been killed. Which is technically the truth... but extremely different from the actual numbers. Eyewitnesses and survivors seriously doubted the number. On July 25, it was revealed that it was approximately 68, though many were still missing, so they estimated up to 86 to account for those missing. Ultimately, 69 people died as a result of the attack. Names and dates of birth were released on July 26.
Of the 69 killed, 57 were killed by 1 or more gunshots to the head. 67 were killed by gunshots, 1 died falling off a cliff while trying to escape, and 1 drowned trying to swim away from the carnage. At least 110 received physical injuries, some as minor as cuts and bruises, and some from hypothermia from swimming away. Of course, some were treated for gunshot wounds, as 33 people were shot and survived their injuries. 564 people were on the island at the time. The victims ranged from ages 14 to 51, with the vast majority being aged 17 (16 victims) and 18 (17 victims).
The same problem they had trying to get to the island prevailed as they tried to get off: they did not have helicopters suitable for transporting the survivors. The ferry had been shut down, as 9 people left the island when Breivek went to Utoya, so it was believed there may be more terrorists in the area.
Once the police arrested Breivik, an innocent 17-year-old survivor named Anzor Djoukaev was arrested, as well. He was stripped naked and locked in jail. They believed he was an accomplice because his hair didn't match what was shown on his ID, and because he wasn't reacting with the same terror and chaos as the others. He was held for 17 hours. They were criticized for not notifying his family, who believed he had died, and for arresting the innocent survivor of a horrifying massacre.
REACTIONS AND AFTERMATH
In Norway, King Harald V sent his condolences to all, and Queen Sonja personally visited the victims and the families. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called the attack a "national tragedy" and vowed that the attack would have no affect on the democracy in the country. Leaders encouraged standing in unity and love in the wake of tragedy. The president of Norway's Parliament read out loud the names of all 77 victims, though parliament was typically on recess during the summer. All 7 political parties agreed to postpone the electoral campaign for local elections.
The UN, the EU, NATO, and governments around the world all expressed their condemnation of the attacks, as well as solidarity with Norway (although, of course, some right-wing politicians supported the viewpoint of the killings. A right wing Austrian idiot from the National Council of Austria was fired for likening the massacre to abortion).
Memorial ceremonies were held, and 200,000 people attended a rose march in Oslo to commemorate the victims. A memorial concert was held, and symbols of the attacks were put up all over the country.
Breivik was arraigned in Oslo on July 25, 2011. It was closed to media to ensure he did not communicate with any potential accomplices. His trial began on April 16, 2012 and lasted until June 19. He acknowledged that he had committed the crimes, but pleaded not guilty because he believed the killings were necessary. He did not want to be deemed insane, as that would lose his message's credibility.
He was found to be sane on August 24, and sentenced to 21 years in prison, which could be repeatedly extended by 5 years as long as he continues to be deemed a threat to society. This is the maximum sentence in Norway, and the only way a criminal can receive life in prison.
After the shooting, a chain retail store in Norway removed several games with gun violence in them. Additionally, memberships in various Norwegian political groups saw upticks in membership.
There were 2 attempted, or planned, copycat attacks. A 29-year-old Czech Republican man named Vojtech Mynek, an admirer of Breivik's, was arrested in August 2012 for stockpiling weapons and creating an aerial bomb, equipped with remote detonation. He was found to be criminally insane and ordered psychiatric detention, which will be reviewed every 2 years. Police believe that he was not capable of an actual terrorist attack. In November of 2012, a 45-year-old Polish chemical engineering professor named Brunon Kwiecien was arrested under suspicion of preparing a copycat attack. He was a Breivik, and McVeigh admirer (of the Oklahoma City bombing). He was sentenced to 9 years in prison, and died in 2017.
This case is so meticulous, horrifying and fascinating, all at once. This wasn't a disorganized crime. He built a bomb and detonated it with a goal in mind: to distract the police, and make it more difficult for them to arrive at the real crime scene. Even though it was just a decoy, it still ended the lives of 8 innocent people. That is the same amount of people Richard Speck killed, less than the amount of victims of Son of Sam. And it was just the decoy.
I think about what was going through the minds of everyone on the island a lot. A police officer came to inform them of a bomb in Oslo. That is scary. Was anyone hurt? Anyone they knew? What was the scope of the damage? And before they could even start to worry about it, the police officer started shooting wildly and at everyone. Did they realize he was just dressed as a cop, or believe a real police officer had come to take their lives?
Picturing him arriving is so horrifying. Slipping away from the carnage he caused in Oslo, boarding an unsuspecting ferry, no police officers in hot pursuit.
The campers were terrified. Some were shot immediately. Some hid and were found, while some hid and were killed. They played dead. They jumped in the water, being shot at while they swam away. For over an hour, they hid and ran and scream and cried and swam and laid still while the massacre continued to happen around them. While 69 people on the island were murdered. Police were called within a few minutes, and yet, they did not arrive for over an hour. How did they feel? Waiting there, hopeless, nowhere to go while they assumed no one was coming for them? While a man continued to shoot without mercy? Killing parents and children and friends alike.
67 people were shot to death by Anders Breivik. 2 died while trying to escape his merciless wrath. And 8 died as a result of the explosion he used to distract the police and clog up roadways for his attach on Utoya. To this day, no shooting has carried the same amount of victims as the massacre on Utoya, and God willing, none ever will.
Extremism, in any of its forms, is so very dangerous. To believe in something so much that someone's death, let alone 77 people's deaths, are seen as simply the cost of getting your point across... that is when your beliefs have gone too far. This man was an extremist, which just means that he was filled to the brim with hate. A hate so powerful that 77 people had to die for him to demonstrate it. Extremism is dangerous. Extremism with access to powerful weapons, is lethal.
Today, 9 years ago, 77 lives were lost while hundreds, thousands of lives were never the same again. 1 in 4 Norwegians had some connection to one of the deceased. The victims were from 18 of Norway's 19 counties, bringing devastation across the entire country. It has been 9 years, and I hope, more than anything, that those 1 in 4 people, especially the direct relatives and close friends of the victims have been able to begin to pick up and move forward from one of the most devastating, senseless tragedies in recent history.