Norway attacks shock, disgust Europe

July 23, 2011 - 10:29 AM
Russia Norway Explosion

A man lay flowers in front of the Embassy of Norway in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, July 23, 2011, in memory of the explosion and shooting victims. A homegrown terrorist set off the explosion that ripped open buildings in the heart of Norway's government, then went to a summer camp dressed as a police officer and gunned down youths as they ran and even swam for their lives, police said Friday. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

BERLIN (AP) — The deadly twin attacks in Norway were greeted with an outpouring of sympathy and disgust across Europe and beyond on Saturday, and generated calls to counter the far-right intolerance that may have motivated the assailant.

A massive bombing Friday in the heart of Oslo was followed by a horrific shooting spree on an island hosting a youth retreat for the prime minister's center-left party. The same man, a Norwegian with reported Christian fundamentalist, anti-Muslim views, was suspected in both attacks.

While the background isn't yet entirely clear, "it is said that hatred was a motive," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin. "Hatred of others, hatred of those who look different, of the supposedly foreign — this hatred is our common enemy."

"All of us who believe in freedom, respect and peaceful coexistence, we all must confront this hatred," she said.

Neighboring Sweden's prime minister said Norwegian society "now faces a tough challenge. But the questions will also reach us here in Sweden."

"Remember that what an extremist does can very often be used by other extremists. Our task is to show another way," Fredrik Reinfeldt said in Stockholm.

"We all have to stand up together and show what is important: to respect each other, to take care of each other, to stand up for democracy, openness and show respect for all people, not the least young people who have chosen to engage themselves politically."

Germany's top Jewish leader also highlighted the need to fight extremism.

"As a group that itself is always threatened by hatred, fanaticism and terrorism, we can identify particularly with the terrible loss of Norwegian society," Dieter Graumann said, German news agency dapd reported.

Austria's opposition Freedom Party, which has drawn criticism in the past for anti-immigration and anti-Islamic rhetoric, condemned the attacks sharply. "It is absolutely abhorrent how young people were systematically killed," general secretary Harald Vilimsky said, according to the Austria Press Agency.

Pope Benedict XVI's envoy to Norway called the attacks "madness."

"All these actions are irrational and difficult to comprehend, whether they had personal or political reasons," Archbishop Paul Tscherrig, the apostolic nuncio, told Vatican Radio.

He added that the Catholic Church is praying for the victims, who will be remembered during Sunday Mass.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek expressed shock at the targeting of youths at a political party camp.

"This is an unimaginable tragedy for the families who lost their loved ones, young people at the outset of their adult life, fascinated with public service," he said. "It's shocking how one can inflict so much evil."

Pakistan, which has been a frequent target of attacks by Islamic extremists, said its president and prime minister "strongly condemned" the attacks.

"Pakistan itself has suffered enormously from terrorist attacks and fully empathizes with the government and the people of Norway," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Closer to home, Finland's European affairs minister, Alexander Stubb, said that "when I see what happened in Norway I just want to cry."

"It just feels so wrong," Stubb wrote on Twitter. "Wish I could give Norway a big hug."

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Associated Press reporters across the globe contributed to this report.