A youth camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya is due to reopen for the first time since far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik killed 69 people, mostly teenagers, during a gathering of Labour Party supporters over four years ago.
Over 1,000 participants from the Labour Party’s youth wing AUF, including survivors from the attack, are expected to attend the camp on the 0.12 square kilometre-island, located approximately 40 kilometres northwest from the capital Oslo on Friday and Saturday.
While the annual gathering was cancelled the year following the attack in 2012, it has been held in different locations in 2013 and 2014.
Survivors of the attack in July 2011 however, are divided on whether a return to the island so soon after the tragedy is appropriate, while painful memories of Norway’s worst peacetime massacre are still fresh in minds.
“I’m not sure I want to return to the camp, so I prefer to wait until I really want to go,” 21-year-old survivor Marie Hogden told AFP.
AUF head Mani Hussaini, 27, on the other hand, said the gathering’s return to Utoya will be “special.”
“Those who are preparing to return to Utoya are helping to write a new page in the history of the island,” Hussaini said. “The new Utoya should be a place to remember, to learn and to cultivate political activism.”
“Utoya has to continue to be a workshop where young people learn about democracy, politics and activism,” 20-year-old Astrid Willa Eide Hoem concurred.
Hoax bomb found
Anxieties continue to run high, however, in the country ahead of the gathering’s return to the island, with a “bomb-like” object found at the University of Oslo on Wednesday night, following the shooting of a security guard.
The security guard, who survived the attack, was shot in the chest with a 22-calibre weapon by two men before the device was found just hundreds of metres away, causing an evacuation of the university.
“The object was designed to cause fear. It looks like a bomb, but is what the police in technical terminology call a ‘hoax,’” Oslo Police said in a press conference after the incident.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Oslo Police spokesman André Krakenes said it is not yet known if the hoax device had any links to the shooting.
Police are now looking for two white men who according to the security guard were speaking English.
“It makes you a bit nervous when this happens so close,” 21-year-old student Anders Bjerva told Norwegian news agency NRK.
“It is easy to draw a comparison back to July 22 , and you never feel completely safe when these things happen,” Bjerva added, referring to the Utoya attack.
Anders Behring Breivik was jailed for 21 years for killing the teenagers on Utoya island after setting off a bomb in Oslo, and this sentence could be expended indefinitely if he is still believed to be a threat to the public at the end of the original term.
Prior to the attacks, Breivik prepared a 1,500-page manifesto in which he praised other far-right European nationalists and activists and condemned what he called “Cultural Marxism,” or multiculturalism.
Earlier this year, Breivik launched a lawsuit against the Norwegian government claiming that Norway violated the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping him in solitary confinement.
The prison administration has claimed that Breivik was put in isolation due to the risk of him being attacked by other inmates, insisting that his prison conditions have not violated any European laws.
Breivik was originally sent to Ila Prison where he could watch television, use a PC without internet access and work out with gym equipment.
After his conviction however, Breivik was sent Skien prison, where he had no computer access. In 2012, Breivik sent a letter to the prison’s administration that demanded a cell with a view and for the PlayStation 2 provided to him to be upgraded to a PlayStation 3.
Breivik also threatened to begin a hunger strike if his requirements were not met.
He was later accepted to the University of Oslo to study political science after receiving his high school diploma in prison.