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Relatives visit Norway massacre site

Around 500 family members of the victims of Norway's worst massacre gather on the island near Oslo

AFP , Friday 19 Aug 2011
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Views: 981

Around 500 family members of the victims of Norway's worst peace-time massacre gathered Friday on the island near Oslo where four weeks ago 69 mostly young people were gunned down in cold blood.

The painful visit to the site of the shooting rampage on the island of Utoeya, northwest of Oslo, came as the rightwing extremist who has confessed to the attack, Anders Behring Breivik, made his second court appearance in Oslo since his arrest.

A judge was to rule later Friday if Behring Breivik should remain in solitary confinement.

Under a light rain, the families visited visited Utoeya for the first time since the attack.

The mother of one 16-year-old girl, Andrine, who was found among the dead following the July 22 killing spree, said before the visit that she was preparing herself for a "difficult" day.

"But the last weeks have been so difficult that this cannot possibly be any worse," the woman said on NRK public radio ahead of the trip.

"At least we will be able to find the last spot where Andrine was alive. We can place flowers there and burn a candle."

Behring Breivik, 32, chose the island around 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Oslo for his shooting rampage because it was hosting a summer camp for members of the youth wing of Norway's ruling Labour Party.

Earlier in the day Behring Breivik set off a car bomb outside government offices in Oslo killing another eight people which served as the perfect distraction as he went on his rampage on Utoeya, hunting down victims and taking aim at will, while some of the young people begged for their lives.

Behring Breivik, arrested on the island after police finally arrived there, has confessed to the two attacks and said he acted alone.

The final funeral for a victim -- for 16-year-old Elisabeth Troennes Lie -- was held on Thursday after a delay so her 17-year-old sister, who was seriously wounded in the shooting, could take part.

Since the killings police have cleaned up the tiny island and authorities say that those who request it will be shown the exact places where victims, some of them as young as 14, were killed.

The 500 visitors were accompanied by a team of psychologists, clergymen, and members of the investigation team were on hand to help, said Per Kristen Brekke, a senior official with Norway's Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency. The visit was closed to the press.

"We have done everything we can to provide the security and dignity necessary for this visit: we want it to be calm and peaceful, and to provide people to talk to and we intend to answer all questions the families want to ask," Brekke told AFP.

"If they want to, the families are free to ask the police to show them the places where the bodies of their relatives were found."

Lars Weisaeth, an expert at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, said visiting the island would be an essential step in the healing process of the families.

"The most important thing is to try to comprehend the incomprehensible," he told AFP.

"It's also a sign of solidarity with the person who is gone. To put yourself in his shoes during his final moments is to get closer to him," he said.

On Saturday, a second visit to the island is planned for survivors of the shooting, their family members and loved ones, with around 1,000 expected to make the trip.

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