On this day in 2012, the man who killed 77 people in a July 22, 2011, bombing and shooting attack in Norway is sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum allowed under Norwegian law. Anders Behring Breivik, a 33-year-old right-wing extremist with anti-Muslim views, carried out attacks in Oslo, the nation’s capital, and at a youth camp on the nearby island of Utoya because he wanted to call attention to what he referred to as the “Islamic colonization” of Europe and inspire an uprising against it. The attacks were the deadliest the nation of 5 million residents had experienced since World War II.
The massacre began around 3:25 p.m. when Breivik detonated a van packed with explosives outside government offices in central Oslo, leaving eight people dead and more than 200 others injured. Approximately two hours later, Breivik, dressed as a police officer, arrived on Utoya Island, about 25 miles northwest of Oslo, at a summer camp for hundreds of teenagers organized by Norway’s governing Labour Party (whose liberal immigration policies Breivik opposed). There, he methodically shot and killed 69 people, many of them teens. Some of Breivik’s victims were trying to swim to safety when he gunned them down. More than an hour after the shooting rampage began, law enforcement officers arrived and Breivik surrendered.
Authorities later discovered that shortly before the deadly twin attacks Breivik had posted a 1,500-page manifesto online railing against multiculturalism and Islam, which he considered dangers to Europe. It also was learned that Breivik, who was raised in a middle-class Norwegian family, spent at least several years preparing for the attacks, setting up an agricultural business so he could buy chemicals to build explosives and playing computer war games, among other activities.
During Breivik’s 10-week trial in the spring of 2012, he admitted to carrying out the attacks but said his victims were complicit in their deaths because they supported multiculturalism and Muslim immigration, thereby putting Norway at risk, in his opinion. On August 24, 2012, Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed in Norway, which does not have the death penalty. However, his sentence can be extended as long as he is considered a threat to society. Prosecutors had argued Breivik was insane and should be sent to a psychiatric institution rather than prison, but the court ruled he was sane, a decision that pleased Breivik, who wanted his attacks to be viewed as a political statement rather than dismissed as the actions of a mentally ill person.
A week before Breivik was sentenced, Norway’s national police commissioner resigned after a damaging report issued by an independent commission concluded police should have responded faster to the attacks and could have done more to prevent them.