On March 9, 2010 – the day U.S. authorities announced terrorism charges against a blonde, white American woman who called herself Jihad Jane – senior government officials repeatedly described the arrest as a seminal event in the war on terror. The case was so serious, authorities said, that they charged the woman, Colleen LaRose, with crimes that could keep her in prison for the rest of her life.
Now, as she awaits sentencing, a months-long Reuters review of confidential documents and interviews with sources in Europe and the United States — including the first and only interview with Jihad Jane herself — reveals a far less menacing and, in some ways, more preposterous undertaking than what the U.S. government asserted.
SPECIAL REPORT - Jane’s Jihad: the new face of terrorism
Up to 40,000 Norwegians staged an emotionally-charged sing-along in Oslo on Thursday near the court house where Anders Behring Breivik is on trial for the murder of 77 people in a protest organizers said showed he had not broken their tolerant society.
“It’s we who win,” said guitar-strumming folk singer Lillebjoern Nilsen as he led the mass sing-along and watched the crowd sway gently in the rain. Many held roses above their heads, and some wept.
The protest followed several days of defiant testimony from Breivik who has admitted he killed his victims in a blood soaked attack on Norway’s multicultural society, but denied criminal guilt, saying he did so in self-defense.
READ MORE: Thousands protest at trial of Anders Breivik
Norway killer on trial: “I would have done it again”
The Norwegian anti-Islamic gunman who killed 77 people said at his trial on Tuesday his shooting spree and bomb attack were “sophisticated and spectacular” and that he would do the same thing again.
Anders Behring Breivik, 33, has pleaded not guilty and said he was defending his country by setting off a car bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo last July, then killing another 69 people in a shooting spree at a youth summer camp organized by the ruling Labour Party.
“I have carried out the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack committed in Europe since the Second World War,” Breivik told the court in a prepared statement.
“They (Norwegians) risk being a minority in their own capital in their own country in the future.”
“Yes, I would have done it again, because offences against my people … are many times as bad,” he said, taking to the stand for the first time.
While he has admitted the killings and will likely be kept behind bars for the rest of his life, Breivik’s main objective is to prove he is sane, a court judgment that he sees as vindicating his anti-Muslim and anti-immigration cause.
The bracelet, marked with the word UTOEYA in capital letters, was given to those attending last summer’s Labour Party youth camp on the island. Vegard Groeslie Wennesland hasn’t taken his off since the day far-right militant Anders Behring Breivik shot dead 69 teenagers and adults. Hours earlier the 33-year old had planted a car bomb outside the prime minister’s office in central Oslo, killing eight.
In a nation of five million where most people either knew one of the victims or know someone who did, the attacks have cut deep. Survivors - including more than 240 wounded - still get flashbacks, panic attacks or the strange feeling they are spectators of their own lives. Young people have become more involved in politics.
But it is striking too what “July 22,” as the attacks are commonly called in Norway, has not done. It has not made Norwegians more fearful of one another, or triggered calls for tougher anti-terrorist measures. Instead, many Norwegians say it has reaffirmed their faith in a society they like to see as liberal, tolerant and egalitarian.
SPECIAL REPORT: Life after the Norway massacre