On July 22, 2011, anti-Islam terrorist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a 2,100-pound bomb in the Norwegian Government Quarter in the heart of Oslo, killing eight people, before shooting and killing 69 people at Utøya, a small island 25 miles from Oslo. A further 158 people were wounded in the attacks.[1] The trial against Breivik begins in Oslo District Court on April 16, 2012. It will provide insight to many questions that remain unanswered. Before the start of the trial, however, it is useful to recapture what is known about Breivik as a person, his tactics and networks.

This article summarizes information from Norwegian sources[2] to inform an international public. It does not provide a comprehensive overview of the case, but instead covers aspects that have been overlooked or misinterpreted by international media. The article also leaves out the much larger subject of Breivik’s ideology. In summation, the findings suggest that Breivik had a less privileged childhood than was initially thought, that he committed tactical mistakes during his attack preparations, and that questions remain about the extent to which he radicalized completely on his own.

Anders Behring Breivik
There has been much debate and speculation about Breivik’s mental health. At stake is not only the issue of due legal process, but also the question of whether Breivik represents a broader ideological movement. After 13 conversations with Breivik in jail, the first court-appointed forensic psychiatrists concluded that Breivik suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. The diagnosis sparked intense public debate in Norway because it implies that Breivik is criminally insane, and therefore not legally responsible for the killings according to Norwegian law.[3] The evaluation was soon leaked to the press and has been widely criticized by both psychiatrists and non-psychiatrists for failing to contextualize Breivik’s statements and worldview.[4] The controversy was such that the court made the unprecedented decision of commissioning a second evaluation by another team of psychiatrists, which will conclude its work in early April 2012. Rather than addressing the issue of Breivik’s mental state, however, this article will summarize key aspects of his biography.

The first years of Breivik’s life were marked by instability and an absent father figure. Breivik’s parents separated when he was a year-and-a-half-old. His father would mostly live abroad, working as a Norwegian diplomat. His mother found raising Breivik and his older sister alone to be challenging, and she therefore applied for a weekend home for her son when he was two-years-old. In the application, Breivik was described as a demanding child who exhausted his mother both physically and psychologically.[5] The application was approved, and Breivik spent several weekends with another family.[6]

Two years later, in 1983, Breivik spent a month in a national center for children and youth psychiatry together with his mother and half-sister.[7] At this point, Breivik’s father filed for custody. The case was presented to the court, which decided that his mother should have full custody, pending further examination. Meanwhile, his father withdrew his case.[8] The year after, Norwegian child welfare filed a letter of concern leading to further investigations of the family conditions. The authorities considered moving Breivik into foster care, but this was eventually deemed unnecessary, and the case was closed.[9]

Breivik’s teenage years were also somewhat troubled. At age 14, he was charged twice with graffiti and vandalism. Later the same year, he was detained by police at Oslo central station having just arrived from Denmark with 43 graffiti aerosol spray cans in his bag.[10] His mother was unaware of his Denmark trip, a fact which prompted talks between the Breivik family and child welfare in which his mother expressed concerns about her son pursuing a criminal career.[11] According to Breivik’s mother, his father became furious when he heard about the graffiti incidents, and “closed the door” on his son.[12] Breivik also explained that the graffiti incident led to a break of regular contact between him and his father, with whom he lost all contact at the age of 22.[13]

Nevertheless, it would be inaccurate to describe Breivik as a delinquent. He has also been described as a caring son. For example, when he turned 15, his mother fell ill and was hospitalized for some time. Breivik cared for her when she returned home, and he even had his military service postponed to look after her.[14] The same year, Breivik chose to be baptized and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church,[15] an incident which has led some foreign commentators to suggest he is a Christian fundamentalist. This is a misunderstanding. The majority of Norwegian youth are confirmed at this age, which does not necessarily mean that they are particularly religious.[16]

At 16, Breivik began high school, but disliked it and changed schools after the first year. He spent one more year in a second high school, before dropping out for good.[17] He moved out from his mother’s home in 2001, and lived in a shared flat for a year. Between 2002 and 2006, he lived by himself in a rented apartment. During this period, Breivik started and managed several small companies.[18]

In 2006, Breivik’s mother suggested he should move back home because she figured he could save money as his various companies did not turn out to be successful.[19] Breivik agreed to it, and claims it was at this time the thought of martyrdom struck him. He therefore decided to “take a year off to play videogames” as a “martyr gift” to himself.[20] He largely withdrew from social life while his mother paid the rent, did his laundry, and cooked for him.[21]

In 2007, Breivik told his mother he was going to write a book.[22] She describes his behavior from this time forward as odd, as he became increasingly obsessed with the book project. It culminated in 2010. He would get angry whenever she disturbed him, and she felt like being “locked in” with her son.[23] He would also accuse her of being a Marxist and a feminist.[24] From 2010, he forbade her to sneeze and would complain about the food. He told her he was not as attractive anymore, and that he was considering plastic and dental surgery.[25]

In the autumn of 2010, Breivik told his mother that the book project was completed. He would talk more and more about politics, and make comments that she considered “crazy.”[26] She describes her son as very “intense,” and in the final year they lived together he more or less locked himself inside his room. He expressed fear of being contaminated by her because she talked to too many people, and he would not eat in the kitchen, only in his own room. He would walk around in the apartment holding a hand in front of his face, and would sometimes wear a gauze mask.[27]

That autumn, Breivik purchased what his mother understood to be a bullet-proof suitcase and a shotgun, which he kept in his room. In early 2011, she also noticed he had bought a large pistol. He would also dress up in his self-made “survival outfit” in the apartment. He told her about the coming of a civil war and received large packages by airmail. She also noticed he was storing strange equipment in the basement, including large rucksacks filled with stones and four large containers with lids. When she asked what it was all for, he would become angry. During the spring of 2011, Breivik’s mother once saw her son coming out of his room with a red uniform jacket with emblems sewed onto it.[28] On May 7, Breivik moved all his equipment to a farm he rented at Åsta in Hedmark County, where he would build the bomb.

Breivik’s Tactics
The car bomb Breivik detonated at the Government Quarter weighed about 2,100 pounds (950 kilograms) and its main components were fertilizer and diesel. Breivik used online recipes to build it, and purchased the ingredients from retailers in Norway and abroad. He ordered six tons of fertilizer from the Norwegian cooperative Felleskjøpet on May 4, 2011.[29] The aluminum powder—a core ingredient in fertilizer bombs—was bought online from a Polish company.[30] Breivik originally wanted to build three bombs, but realized he was running short of time and finances, and decided to make only one.[31] After July 22, police found great quantities of leftover bombmaking materials at Breivik’s farm.

Most of Breivik’s special equipment was purchased on eBay, including a tactical rifle foregrip from a Hong Kong-based trader, a zoom spotting scope from a Chinese supplier, and a LaserLyte pistol bayonet from a U.S.-based retailer.[32] He also bought 15 vinyl air bags that may have been used to stabilize the car bomb during transport.[33]

As for the weapons Breivik used on July 22, his initial plan was to buy them on the black market in countries he considered as “European criminal network hubs.”[34] This somewhat naive idea led Breivik into one of his tactical misfortunes as he drove all the way to the Czech Republic to actively approach people he believed to be criminals. In his book, which is also known as his “compendium,”[35] he described the trip as a complete failure as everyone he approached thought he was crazy.[36] He therefore lost his motivation and returned empty-handed.[37]

Surprisingly, acquiring weapons legally in Norway proved much easier than buying them on the black market abroad. Breivik simply used his hunting license and pistol club membership to buy a Ruger Mini 14 (semi-automatic rifle) and a 9mm Glock 17 (semi-automatic pistol).

There are other incidents suggesting Breivik may not have been as cool-headed as is commonly portrayed. For instance, he was kicked out of a bar in Oslo one year before the attacks, having annoyed a Norwegian celebrity by talking extensively about crusades, Islam, and Templar Knights. While being escorted out of the bar, he reportedly shouted at the celebrity: “A year from now, I will be three times as famous as you!”[38]

Moreover, in March 2011, Breivik apparently called the central switchboard of Norwegian ministries, threatening to kill members of The Workers’ Youth League (AUF) at Utøya. This incident was logged, but never forwarded to the Police Secret Service as it was considered an empty threat. Breivik later acknowledged making the call, but said he does not remember its contents.[39]

Finally, not everything went according to Breivik’s plan on the day of the attacks. His original idea was to be in Oslo and start the distribution of the compendium at 3:00 AM the night before, and to detonate the vehicle around 10:00 AM.[40] The bomb, however, was not detonated until 3:25 PM.[41] The precise reasons for the delay are not clear. Breivik himself claims to have been delayed back at the farm and not having made it to Oslo until 11:00 PM, after which he went to sleep because he was tired.[42] It has later become known, however, that Breivik, on the night before the attacks, visited the same bar in Oslo from which he had been kicked out of a year before.[43]

In any case, Breivik did not wake until 8:00 AM the next morning, and started the day installing a new computer modem and configuring Microsoft Outlook on his personal computer, presumably in preparation for the e-mail distribution.[44] This took more time than expected, which caused him to panic slightly.[45] He decided to go on an additional reconnaissance trip to the Government Quarter before returning to his mother’s home to upload the movie trailer on YouTube. He claims that he wrote the last message in the compendium at 2:45 PM.[46] When he finally decided to initiate his plan, many people had already left work at the Government Quarter. In his own mind, he failed his first mission because he was delayed and not enough people were killed. During an interview, he claims that he could have surrendered immediately if more people would have been killed in the first attack.[47]

Breivik’s Networks
The most critical question for Norwegian investigators has been whether Breivik had any accomplices. To date, there are no indications of him receiving any help with the operational planning or execution of the July 22 attacks. Moreover, investigators say they have yet to find evidence that the Knights Templar organization described in the compendium is anything but a product of Breivik’s imagination. In the years leading up to the attack, however, Breivik did communicate with people and groups sharing his anti-Islamist ideas. He has also been linked to convicted terrorists with similarly murky political views. While these links do not amount to organized collaboration, it may be too early to draw conclusions about the extent to which other activists played a role in his radicalization process.

One reason is that Breivik traveled extensively. From Breivik’s room, police retrieved two passports, one of which documented travels to Turkey (1998), Liberia (April 2002), Ivory Coast (April 2002), Malta (April 2004), Estonia (April 2004), Croatia (August 2004), China (July 2005) and Lithuania (travel date unknown).[48] Norwegian police have also confirmed large money transactions from Breivik to unknown persons abroad.[49] He also laundered money in Latvia through a company called Brentwood Solutions.[50]

In his compendium, Breivik claims he visited a Serb “war hero” in Liberia in 2002, before attending the ordination meeting of his alleged Knights Templar organization in London later that year. Norwegian police have confirmed that Breivik spent approximately a week in Liberia in April 2002.[51] Exactly whom he met remains unknown, but speculation has centered on Milorad “Legija” Ulemek,[52] a former commander of The Red Berets.[53]

It has also been confirmed that Breivik visited Belarus in 2005. While early commentators suggested he may have gone for paramilitary training,[54] a more trivial reason has now been confirmed: Breivik went to see a woman he had met on a matchmaking website. The woman in question has since told the police that she dated Breivik for awhile, but left him because he was such a chauvinist.[55]

On May 17, 2009, the Norwegian Constitution Day, Breivik registered the company “Breivik Geofarm,” which later became his cover for buying fertilizer.[56] Two Swedish citizens are currently under investigation for having listed the company as their employer on Facebook. Both individuals had links on their Facebook sites to known war criminals and fascists from the Second World War, in addition to the Serb paramilitary leader Arkan.[57]

During 2009, Breivik also contacted members of the English Defence League (EDL) on Facebook. He used the nickname Sigurd Jorsalfare, alluding to the Norwegian king Sigurd Magnusson (1090-1130) who earned the eponym “Jorsalfare” after his combined crusade and pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1108-1111. It has also been alleged that Breivik attended EDL-demonstrations in Newcastle and West London in 2010.[58] This has yet to be confirmed, although a senior leader in the EDL has said Breivik met with EDL leaders in March that year during a visit to London to listen to Geert Wilders speak.[59] Breivik also joined the Norwegian Defence League (NDL) in 2010, but former NDL leader Lena Andreassen now says she personally threw him out because his views were “too extreme” (she has not said when she threw Breivik out or to which of his statements she reacted).[60]

There have also been rumors that Breivik met with representatives from the now banned Russian neo-Nazi group Slavic Union, including the infamous Vjateslav Datsik.[61] The rumors have been confirmed by the former leader of the Slavic Union, Dmitrij Demusjkin, but not by other sources.[62] Breivik has also been linked to an organization called Order 777, a self-proclaimed “paraintelligence service” and “Christian brotherhood” structured in “special operation units” to fight the threat of Islamic terrorism.[63] The group has three key members: 1) the former neo-Nazi and convicted terrorist Nick Greger from Germany; 2) the former loyalist paramilitary fighter and convicted terrorist Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair from Northern Ireland; and 3) Paul Ray from England, known as one of the initial founders of the EDL.[64]

There are striking similarities between Order 777 and Breivik in terms of their use of Templar iconography and counterjihad rhetoric. Moreover, the Serb commander Milorad “Legija” Ulemek features in several of the videos posted by Order 777 on YouTube.[65] Paul Ray, however, has explicitly distanced himself from Breivik. He was initially accused by the media for being the person Breivik refers to as his mentor and a founding member of his Knights Templar: Richard the Lionhearted.[66] Paul Ray uses the nickname Lionheart which is also the name of his blog.[67] Moreover, Ray leads an anti-Islam group called The Ancient Order of the Templar Knights.[68] Ray argues that he has been framed and that Breivik has merely copied his ideas. Ray admits that Breivik tried to become his Facebook friend, but claims he denied the request because he “didn’t like the look of him.”[69] Instead, Paul Ray has indicated that Alan Ayling (also known as Alan Lake) may be the person Breivik refers to as his English mentor.[70] Ayling is the alleged financier and strategist behind the EDL, and another of its founding members.[71]

Finally, Breivik has been linked to a network of counterjihadist writers active on websites such as Gates of Vienna and the Brussels Journal.[72] This network comes across as more intellectual and less militant than the above-mentioned groups. A key person in this regard is Peder Nøstvold Jensen (also known as Fjordman). Breivik copied 39 of Fjordman’s essays in his compendium, and refers to him as his main source of intellectual inspiration. Fjordman has been investigated thoroughly by the police, and there are no indications that he knew about Breivik’s terrorist plans. He met Breivik on the Norwegian forum Document.no and they later exchanged a few e-mails.[73]

The number of loose ends in the Breivik case makes it all the more important to remain critical of claims concerning his connections, intellect and persona. For now, more information is required before qualified conclusions can be offered on whether July 22 was a case of an ideology that created a madman, or a madman that used an ideology to cultivate his own hatred and confusion.

Jacob Aasland Ravndal is a research fellow and Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). He studies far-right extremism with an emphasis on counterjihad ideology and movements. Mr. Ravndal holds a master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Oslo.

[1] During the attacks, 98 people were wounded at the Government Quarter, while 60 people were wounded at Utøya.  See “16 fremdeles alvorlig skadet etter terrorangrepet,” VG Nett, August 1, 2011.

[2] In addition to Norwegian media, this article draws on a 243-page forensic psychiatry report prepared by two experts nominated by the court. The report provides details from 13 interviews with Breivik carried out by the psychiatrists in jail. During the interviews, Breivik described the different phases of his life, from childhood to the last hours and minutes before the attacks. In addition, the evaluation contains interviews with family and friends, as well as detailed summaries from police interrogations, including the first one that took place on Utøya minutes after Breivik was arrested. The report is available in Norwegian at www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/oslobomben/psykiatrisk_vurdering/. The report has not been officially released, but was leaked to the press by unknown sources. Citing from a leaked document is not unproblematic, but the author has chosen to do so here for several reasons. First, the report carries no classification label. Second, the document is already in the public sphere and has been widely cited in the press. Third, the leaked version of the report has already been redacted to conceal the most sensitive personal information. The author has taken the additional precaution of citing the document only on points that concern Breivik himself. Finally, Norwegian authorities have not taken legal measures against those who leaked the report, nor have they explicitly warned others against citing it in academic publications.

[3] Some experts have suggested that “paranoid psychosis” is a more likely diagnosis, which would define Breivik as criminally insane anyway. For details, see “Psykiatriprofessor: Breivik må ha vært psykotisk,” fvn.no, January 6, 2012.

[4] “Truer psykiatriens omdømme?” VG Nett, February 22, 2012; Tore Bjørgo, “Med monopol på vrangforestillinger,” Aftenposten, December 7, 2011.

[5] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” VG Nett, undated.

[6] Kjetil s. Ostli and Tor Arne Andreassen, “Gransker bekymringsmeldinger om Anders Behring Breiviks barndom,” Aftenposten, November 26, 2011.

[7] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 46.

[8] Ibid., p. 51.

[9] Ibid., p. 53.

[10] Ibid., p. 54.

[11] Ibid., p. 55.

[12] Ibid., p. 75.

[13] Ibid., pp. 91-92.

[14] According to Breivik’s mother, he applied for postponement of military services several times, until he was finally dismissed. “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 77.

[15] For more details, see Anders Behring Breivik, “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” available at http://2083europe.wordpress.com, p. 1,405.

[16] Confirmation is a Christian tradition symbolizing the transition from childhood to adulthood. Although an increasing share of youth today choose a non-religious or humanist confirmation, more than 50% of Norwegian youth still choose to be confirmed in church, not necessarily meaning that they are particularly religious. This was likely the case for Breivik.

[17] Breivik never pursued any further formal education, although he claims to have undertaken between 15,000–16,000 hours of self-study.

[18] One of the companies produced fake diplomas. He also sold outdoor advertising space and IT-support services. His various companies were all closed down after some time, and the last one filed for bankruptcy in 2006/2007. For details, see “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 218.

[19]  Ibid., p. 78.

[20] Ibid., p. 123.

[21] Ibid., p. 218.

[22] Ibid., p. 78.

[23] Ibid., p. 79.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., p. 80.

[27] Ibid., pp. 80 and 133.

[28] Ibid., p. 24.

[29] Torgeir P. Krokfjord and Line Brustad, “Breivik kjøpte seks tonn kunstgjødsel i mai,” Dagbladet, July 23, 2011.

[30] Breivik bought 330 pounds of aluminum powder for 2,000 euros. For more details, see Rune Christophersen, Oyvind Lefdal Eidsvik and Tron Strand, “Gransket firmaet Breivik bestilte fra,” bt.no, November 24, 2011.

[31] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 141.

[32] Mark Hughes and Gordon Rayner, “Norway Killer Anders Behring Breivik had Extensive Links to English Defence League,” Telegraph, July 25, 2011.

[33] Ibid.

[34] For more details, see Breivik,  p. 920.

[35] Note that since July 22, the media has referred to Breivik’s compendium as his “manifesto.” Breivik, however, either refers to the document as his “book” or his “compendium,” both in the compendium as well as during conversations with psychiatrists. He never used the word “manifesto.”

[36] Breivik, pp. 1422-1423.

[37] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 137.

[38] Torgeir P. Krokfjord et al., “Om ett år er jeg tre ganger mer kjent enn deg,” Dagbladet, August 23, 2011.

[39] “Breivik erkjenner telefon til regjeringskvartalet,” Aftenposten, January 27, 2012. During interrogation, Breivik has acknowledged making the call.

[40] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 143.

[41] “Politiet justerer tidspunktet for terrorbomben,” tv2.no, September 23, 2011.

[42] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 143.

[43] Torgeir P. Krokfjord et al., “Breivik festet på kjendisbar natta før massemordet,” Dagbladet, August 19, 2011.

[44] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” pp. 143-144.

[45] Ibid., p. 144.

[46] Ibid. In the compendium, the last entry in the “Knights Templar Log” was dated July 22 at 12:51, p. 1,472.

[47] “Les de psykiatriske rapportene om Breivik,” p. 140.

[48] Sindre Granly Meldalen et al., “Passet avslørte Breiviks verdensturne,” Dagbladet, February 3, 2012.

[49] One of the transactions amounted to $40,000. For more details, see Sindre Granly Meldalen et al., “Grillet Breivik om mystiske dollar,” Dagbladet, March 2, 2012.

[50] “Breivik skal ha hvitvasket penger i Latvia,” VG Nett, March 3, 2012.

[51] “Politiet har fått bekreftet Behring Breiviks Liberia-tur,” Aftenposten, December 23, 2011.

[52] Runar Henriksen Jørstad et al., “Etterforsker Breivik-spor til serbisk kommandør,” nrk.no, February 4, 2012.

[53] This was a special unit of the Serbian secret police, formed during the former Yugoslavia conflict. In 2007, Ulemek was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 2003 assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in Belgrade. For more details, see Igor Jovanovic, “More Red Beret arrests in Serbia,” Southeast European Times, September 26, 2011.

[54] “Hevder Breivik fikk militær trening i Hviterussland,” Aftenposten, July 29, 2011.

[55] Torgeir P. Krokfjord  et al., “Dette var Breiviks hånd- plukkede konekandidater,” Dagbladet, January 19, 2012.

[56] For a previous listing of this company, see www.gulindex.no/o/Breivik_Geofarm/994089269.

[57] Bent Skjærstad, “Mystiske svensker kobles til Breivik,” tv2.no, July 29, 2011.

[58] Ryan Parry, “Norway Massacre: Anders Behring Breivik Plotted Killing Spree for Nine Years,” Mirror, July 25, 2011.

[59] Hughes and Rayner.

[60] “Hevder Breivik var for ekstrem,” bt.no, July 26, 2011.

[61] Torbjørn Brandeggen, “Breivik skal ha møtt Datsik,” tv2.no, August 3, 2011.

[62] Vladimir Pimonov, “Breivik i kontakt med russiske nazister,” Ekstra Bladet, August 3, 2011.

[63] According to its homepage, Order 777 operates on three levels: (i) operations to expose Islamic terrorists, their networks and activities; (ii) spiritual warfare to fight Islam itself; and (iii) assistance in founding citizen militias with purpose of self-protection of communities which are directly terrorized by jihadists. For more details, see www.globalresistance.webs.com/aboutus.htm, accessed March 2, 2012.

[64] For details, see the following video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jelXXAvGoOg.

[65] For details, see the video “Order 777: A Introduction [sic],” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GY9Dzoqk-ww.

[66] Breivik, p. 1,416.

[67] For details, see www.lionheartuk.blogspot.com.

[68] Jamie Armstrong, “I’m Not Anders Breivik’s British Mentor,” Vice.com, accessed March 19, 2012.

[69] Duncan Gardham and James Orr, “Oslo Attacks: EDL Member Paul Ray Admits he May Have Been Anders Breivik’s Inspiration,” Telegraph, July 29, 2011.

[70] For details, see www.lionheartuk.blogspot.com.

[71] For more details, see Tash Shifrin, “EDL Strategist ‘Alan Lake’ Suspended from Manager Job in City,” Searchlight Magazine, February 3, 2012.

[72] For details, see www.gatesofvienna.blogspot.com and www.brusselsjournal.com.

[73] Breivik informed Fjordman about his book project and wanted to meet him, a proposal Fjordman claims to have rejected. Breivik also offered Fjordman 5,000 Facebook contacts to boost the distribution of a book Fjordman was working on, but this offer was also rejected. It appears Breivik was familiar with Fjordman’s real identity at the time, and the blogger asked him to reveal as little as possible about him as he was still not ready to become a public figure. During police interrogations, Fjordman has admitted to meeting with Alan Lake/Ayling in 2007 or 2008, and says he strongly disliked him because he was so controlling. For more details, see Hans Henrik Torgersen et al., “Slik var kontakten mellom ‘Fjordman’ og Breivik,” VG Nett, December 23, 2011.

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