Norway opens Breivik massacre exhibition on anniversary

Oslo (AFP) - Four years after the attacks by Anders Behring Breivik, Norway on Wednesday opened an exhibition dedicated to the tragedy that some fear could become a "hall of fame" for the mass murderer.

The exhibition has triggered controversy as several objects used by Breivik in his July 2011 rampage, such as the remains of the van where he hid his bomb and the fake ID and insignia he used to impersonate a police officer, are on display.

The right-wing extremist killed 77 people in the worst peacetime atrocity in Norway, claiming he was fighting against multiculturalism and a "Muslim invasion".

The temporary exhibition is housed on the ground floor of the government complex in Oslo that the killer, now 36, unsuccessfully tried to blow up with a massive car bomb.

"The most important message today is that we have to continue to fight against hate rhetoric and extremism, and that future generations come here and learn about what happened," Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told AFP after the inauguration.

On July 22, 2011, Breivik detonated a 950-kilo (over 2,000 pound) car bomb at the foot of the 17-storey office building of the prime minister, current NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, who also attended Wednesday's ceremony.

The blast killed eight people.

Then, in what is believed to be the deadliest peacetime shooting incident ever committed by a single man, he opened fire on a gathering of the Labour Party's youth wing on the island of Utoya, killing another 69 people, most of them teenagers.

Breivik, who has never shown any remorse, is currently in solidary confinement serving a 21-year prison sentence that can be extended indefinitely if he is considered a threat.

- 'Resistance against extremism' -

A Facebook page campaigning against the exhibition has garnered 15,000 "likes", with many users saying it was wrong to give Breivik more publicity.

"A Breivik museum will probably be a feather in his cap," Facebook user Bjorg Strand wrote, while Inger-Lise Christensen likened it to the United States erecting a statue of slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

And a lawyer representing Breivik's victims, John Christian Elden, also voiced outrage.

"A Breivik museum in the government complex? No thank you. Send the goods to the National Museum of Justice in Trondheim instead," he wrote on Twitter.

In another move that stirred anger in Norway, the University of Oslo said last week it had admitted Breivik to a political science degree course.

The government has sought to defend the exhibition.

"I didn't feel that the burned-out car made such a big impression. It just shows the power of the explosion," Solberg told AFP.

"I think the strongest impressions are the opposite, that is, the images of the resistance against extremism."

While many Norwegians say they would rather forget about the mass murderer, former Prime Minister Stoltenberg emphasised that the country had a moral obligation to remember the events of July 22.

They "are part of Norwegian history. We cannot ignore them," he told the NTB news agency.

Lisbeth Kristine Royneland, the head of a support group for survivors and victims' families, who lost her 18-year-old daughter on Utoya, said she supported the project.

"It is not focused on the perpetrator of the attacks," she told AFP after visiting the centre on Tuesday, refusing -- like many Norwegians -- to utter the killer's name.

Displaying pictures, cameras and mobile phones left on the island by those targeted, the exhibition focuses on the victims and the survivors, Breivik's trial and on how Norwegians have stood together.

The objects are accompanied with excerpts from the 2012 verdict against Breivik.

- Scars run deep -

On Twitter, Utoya survivor Elin L'Estrange recommended those who feared it would become a "Breivik museum" to visit the "beautiful and dignified" exhibition.

Scars still run deep in Norway: After four years, more than half of the victims' parents have been unable to return to full-time work, according to a study by the Bergen Centre for Crisis Psychology.

A third of the parents surveyed were in contact with their children by telephone or through text messaging at the time of the shooting.

A memorial for Breivik's victims -- in the form of a giant suspended steel ring -- was also inaugurated Tuesday by families of the victims on Utoya, which lies about 30 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of Oslo.

Most victims' names were inscribed on the ring, but some families had refused to give their permission.