It’s an attack on democratic values: Norwegian minister (Interview)

July 23rd, 2011 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) Norwegian minister Erik Solheim, who was the face of peace efforts in Sri Lanka, Saturday said the “horrible” massacre of 91 people was an attack on Norway’s “democratic values”.

“This is the most horrible attack on Norway in peace time,” the minister of environment and international development told IANS in a telephonic interview from London, while on his way to Oslo.

“We are a small and peaceful country. We have never experienced any such thing. This is an enormous shock,” he added.

“It is an attack on Norway’s democratic values,” he added.

Solheim’s comments came a day after the Scandinavian country was stunned by a powerful car bomb that killed seven people in Oslo and the later massacre of 84 mostly young people in a small island 40 km away.

Police arrested a 32-year-old Norwegian man, Anders Behring Breivik, said to be a rightwing Christian, for both massacres.

The Oslo bombings devastated government buildings, including the office of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The dead included civil servants, and some 90 people were injured.

Within two hours or so, a gunman dressed in police uniform, later identified as Breivik, went on a killing spree in the Uoteya island where a meeting of the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing was on.

The hour-long shooting killed 84 people, mostly teenagers, many of whom were shot even as they jumped into the water to escape. Some swam for as long as five hours to the mainland to escape the madness.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg was to visit the island Saturday.

Solheim — a member of the Socialist Left Party, which is in alliance with the Labour Party — said the government was engaged in efforts to take care of the injured and the families of the dead.

The minister told IANS the meeting on the island that was targeted was “a traditional summer camp where Labour Party leaders go and make speeches … and the young discuss politics”.

Asked about the religious identity of the arrested man (media accounts have called him a rightwing Christian), Solheim said it was “too early to speculate”.

About 85 percent of Norway’s 4.6 million people subscribe to the Church of Norway. Pentecostal and Roman Catholic Churches account for one percent each and other Christian groups for 2.4 percent of Norwegians.

Another 1.8 percent of Norwegians are Muslim.

Solheim has travelled to India frequently in his former capacity as Norway’s special envoy to Sri Lanka.

–Indo-Asian News Serrvice

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