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Norway: A nation ‘hit by evil’ stays united

Norway has honoured the memory of 77 people killed in its worst peacetime massacre, with the prime minister calling on the country to unite around its core values of democracy and peace.

An 18-year-old Muslim girl was the first victim to be laid to rest. After a funeral service in a church, Bano Abobakar Rashid, a Kurdish immigrant from Iraq, was buried in a Muslim rite in Oslo.

The service came as the massacre suspect was quizzed by police for a second time.

Police said all those killed in the terror attacks have been identified and that those who had been reported missing have been accounted for.

"Today it is one week since Norway was hit by evil," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said at a memorial service in the assembly hall of the 'People's House', a community centre for Norway's labour movement.

The bullets struck dozens of members of the youth faction of his Labour Party, but they were aimed at the entire nation, Stoltenberg said, on a stage adorned with red roses, the symbol of his party.

"I think July 22 will be a very strong symbol of the Norwegian people's wish to be united in our fight against violence, and will be a symbol of how the nation can answer with love," he told reporters after the ceremony.

Members of the audience raised bouquets of flowers as each speaker took the stage, and some of them fought back tears as they spoke.

Labour Party youth-wing leader Eskil Pedersen, who was on the island retreat when the gunman started his shooting spree, said the attack would not destroy Norway's core values, such as democracy, and tolerance.

"Long before he stands before a court we can say: he has lost," Pedersen said. He vowed that the youth organisation would return to Utoya island - where the shootings occurred - next year for its summer gathering, a tradition that stretches back decades.

Another memorial service was held at a mosque in an immigrant district of Oslo.

The suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, a vehement anti-Muslim, was moved from jail to the police HQ for his second interrogation since surrendering to an anti-terror squad on Utoya, where his victims lay strewn across the shore and in the water. Many were teens who were gunned down as they tried to flee the onslaught.

Police lawyer Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said the 32-year-old Norwegian remained calm and co-operative during questioning, in which investigators reviewed with him his statements from an earlier session on Saturday.

Investigators believe Breivik acted alone, after years of meticulous planning, and have not found anything to support his claims that he is part of an anti-Muslim militant network plotting a series of coups d'etat across Europe.

Police also said they have identified all of the victims, 69 of whom were killed or fatally wounded on the island and eight who died after a car bomb exploded in central Oslo. Breivik has confessed to both attacks but denies criminal guilt because he believes he is in a state of war, his lawyer and police have said.

Police have charged Breivik with terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison.

However, it is possible the charge will change during the investigation to crimes against humanity, which carries a 30-year prison term, said Norway's top prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch.

"Such charges will be considered when the entire police investigation has been finalised," he said. "It is an extensive investigation. We will charge Breivik for each individual killing."

Prosecutors can also seek a special kind of sentence that would enable the authorities to keep Breivik in prison indefinitely.

A formal indictment is not expected until next year.

Belfast Telegraph


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