Ten years have passed since an Oslo bombing and shooting spree killed 77 Norwegians, with concerns over rising far-right extremism and a divisive debate about how to honor the attacks’ victims revealing unhealed national wounds.

Carried out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, the attacks on July 22, 2011 killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, making it the worst mass casualty event in Norway since World War II.

On that fateful July day, Breivik detonated a fertilizer bomb outside a government office in Oslo, killing eight people. Shortly after, the far-right zealot, dressed as a police officer, went on an hour-long shooting spree on the island of Utoya, located in a lake northwest of the capital. He gunned down 69 people, the majority of them teens who were attending a summer camp run by the youth league of Norway’s Labour Party. Breivik surrendered after a police tactical unit arrived at the scene.

The far-right terrorist said that he was motivated by a desire to prevent an alleged Muslim takeover of Europe. He specifically targeted the Labour Party youth camp because he believed the political party had betrayed Norway by embracing multiculturalism.


In this file photo taken on July 25, 2011 Police continue their investigations at the Tyrifjorden lake on the Utoya island. © TERJE BENDIKSBY / SCANPIX NORWAY / AFP

A year later, Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison for the attacks, which were viewed as acts of terrorism under Norwegian law, and his detention may be extended indefinitely if he is ruled a continued threat to society.


Anders Behring Breivik is serving a maximum 21-year sentence for killing 77 people. © JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP

The attack has cast a long shadow on Norway and other countries around the world: Over the past ten years, Breivik has been blamed for inspiring far-right extremists to carry out copycat attacks.

In New Zealand in March 2019, Brenton Tarrant shot 51 people at two mosques. He said in a manifesto that he admired Breivik.

Less than six months later, Philip Manshaus killed his Asian-born stepsister before opening fire inside a mosque outside of Oslo.


Bullet holes are seen at the cafeteria where Norwegian confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik fired on his young victims, in Utoya island October 3, 2011. © REUTERS/Erlend Aas/ Scanpix

Elin L’Estrange, a survivor of the Utoya massacre, told AFP that the world has yet to come to terms with the “political aspect” of Breivik’s attacks.