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Norway mourns victims, prays for peace after deadly attacks

07-25-2011 08:21 BJT Special Report:Norway Shocked by Twin Attacks |

OSLO, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Norway has plunged in grief as its people come to terms with life after the massive bomb blast and shooting spree on Friday killed at least 93 people.

People mourn the victims of the twin attacks outside the Cathedral in Oslo, Norway, on July 24, 2011. Norway has plunged in grief as its people come to terms with life after the massive bomb blast and shooting spree on Friday killed at least 93 people. (Xinhua/Wang Qingqin)

Across Oslo, the Norwegian capital, makeshift memorials have been put up by residents near the sites damaged by the blast, and at key locations such as the country's parliament and royal palace.

Flowers were offered and candles lit in remembrance of the 93 persons killed so far in what are described as the country's worst attacks since World War II.

The Norwegian national flag flew at half-mast in honor of the victims..

REMEMBRANCE AFTER SHOCK

"Today we allow ourselves to honor and remember the dead," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday at a memorial service for the victims at Oslo Domkirke, the city's historic cathedral.

The service was also attended by Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja, as well as the country's top politicians.

"Each and every one that is taken away from us is a tragedy. And altogether, this is a national tragedy," Stoltenberg said.

He added he was proud to live in the country that showed courage in the midst of such difficulty.

Outside, at least 2,000 people lined the streets leading to the cathedral, whose spire loomed against an overcast sky. Despite the crowds, the atmosphere was somber and quiet.

"It is very, very quiet today in Oslo. This is not usual. It seems like this has affected all the people here," said Asbjorn Bergseng, a resident who stood with mourners in front of the cathedral.

The feeling of quiet shock was felt by others like Marit Nicolaysen, who said Friday's tragedy made her "feel like other Norwegians: very, very sad."

But she added, "I think we all stand together in this situation. We do not know what this will mean for our society but are hoping for the best."

Above all, few people can imagine that an attack of this nature could happen in peaceful Norway.

"We are not used to dealing with anything like this," said Christina Oerwen, a Swedish citizen living in Oslo. "It is something you never thought would happen in this part of the world."

But the facts of the case are indeed shocking. On Friday, a massive explosion rocked downtown Oslo, killing seven and damaging key government buildings including the offices of the prime minister.

Hours later, a gunman dressed in police uniform blasted his way across the tiny island of Utoeya, some 40 km west of the capital, in an orgy of violent shooting that left 86 persons dead.

At the time, the island was hosting a summer camp for the youth wing of Norway's ruling Labour Party. Stoltenberg himself had been scheduled to address the attendees, most aged between 14 and 19 years old, on Saturday.

"It is impossible to comprehend, it is like a nightmare. Words cannot express how I feel," Stoltenberg told a press conference Saturday.

Although shattered glass litters the worst-hit streets, and buildings with blown-out windows are clearly visible, clean-up operations are well underway.


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