Oslo mass killer practiced attack playing video war games for hours
OSLO, Norway—Anders Behring Breivik knew it would take practice to be able to slaughter dozens of people before being shot by police. In a chilling account, the far-right fanatic claimed he sharpened his aim by playing the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” for hours on end.
Breivik told an Oslo court he also took steroids to build physical strength and meditated to “de-emotionalize” himself before the bombing and shooting rampage that left 77 people dead. He figured he had no more than a 5-percent chance of not being killed by police.
His lack of remorse and matter-of-fact description of weapons and tactics—he even considered using a flame thrower—were deeply disturbing to families of the victims, most of whom were teenagers.
Many in the court were in tears as Breivik—charged with “acts of terror”—described in detail on Thursday the shooting massacre on a Norwegian island last year.
“They perceive him as evil and dangerous and reopening wounds,” said Mette Yvonne Larsen, a lawyer for the bereaved. “It’s one thing to read explanations, it’s quite another to hear a person present such a message … I am personally quite shocked.”
Returning to the witness stand on Friday on the fifth day of his trial, Breivik said he actually was a very nice person but he had trained himself to block out his emotions.
“I am a very likeable person under normal conditions,” he said. He described himself as a “caring person.”
On Thursday, Breivik testified he prepared for his attacks by cutting off contact with the outside world and devoting himself to video games. He said he played “World of Warcraft” for 16 hours a day while living with his mother in 2006.
Starting in January 2010, he played “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” to get a feel for how to use rifle sights.
Christopher Ferguson, a clinical psychologist, said although some research suggested action games could improve “visuospatial cognition,” it was difficult to say whether Breivik could have improved his accuracy by playing “Modern Warfare.”
“Let us keep in mind, too, that he was shooting kids on an island from which they could not escape easily,” said Ferguson, whose research involves the impact of violent video games on behavior. “That does not require great accuracy.”
And while the belief persists of a link between violent video games and violent behavior, studies have shown that is not the case, he said.
Norway has been roiled by the trial since it began on Monday. The public TV network NRK is broadcasting live from court but isn’t allowed to show Breivik’s testimony.
Protecting Norway, Europe
Pictures of the confessed mass killer, smirking or flashing his clenched-fist salute, have filled newspaper front pages. For readers who’ve had enough of his antics, the Dagbladet newspaper website has posted a link to a Breivik-free edition.
But many say finding out what motivated Breivik is crucial for the country to put the July 22 massacre behind it.
Breivik, who styles himself as a modern-day crusader, has confessed to the attacks but rejects criminal guilt, saying he was acting to protect Norway and Europe by targeting a left-leaning political party that he claims betrayed the country by opening it up to “Islamic colonization.”
Since Breivik has admitted to the bombing that killed eight people in Oslo and the shooting massacre that left 69 dead at a Labor Party youth camp on Utoya island, the key issue is to establish whether he is criminally insane.
For the first time since the trial started, Breivik didn’t give his right-wing salute when he entered the courtroom on Thursday, heeding the advice of his lawyer. But those hoping for signs of regret were disappointed.
The Norwegian showed no emotion as he described his victims as “traitors” for their links to Norway’s governing Labor Party.
The government building he tried to blow up was “the most attractive political target in all of Norway,” he said, adding he was disappointed to hear on the radio that the building didn’t collapse.
Breivik said he had planned to capture and decapitate former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, then post a video of the beheading on the Internet, but she had left Utoya before he arrived.
The self-styled anti-Islamic militant said he was inspired by al-Qaida’s use of decapitation, but noted that “beheading is a traditional European death penalty.”
He said he acquired the knowledge to carry out a bombing and shooting rampage from the Internet, studying case studies of al-Qaida and other attacks and reading more than 600 bomb-making guides.
He said he studied the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 in particular.
“I have studied each one of their (al-Qaida’s) actions, what they have done wrong, what they have done right,” he said.
He called al-Qaida “the most successful revolutionary movement in the world” and said it should serve as an inspiration to far-right militants, even though their goals were different.
‘Am not insane’
“I am not a psychiatric case,” Breivik said when he resumed his testimony on Friday, insisting “I am criminally sane.”
He testified extensively about how he had consciously worked for years to block out his emotions, using a special kind of Japanese meditation, to prepare for his attacks.
“I know what I have done,” he said, adding he had decided not to try to truly “comprehend the suffering I have caused” for fear he would break down.
Comparing himself to a Japanese “banzai” warrior during World War II, Breivik said too many Norwegian men were “feminized, cooking food and showing emotions.”
Breivik said his original plans were to set off three bombs in Oslo, including at the royal palace, but building just one fertilizer bomb turned out to be “much more difficult than I thought.”
Breivik said he had expected to be confronted by police when he left Oslo for Utoya island, armed with a handgun and a rifle—both named after Norse gods. “I estimated the chances of survival as less than 5 percent,” he said.
He said he was motivated by the belief Norway was being overrun by a “Muslim invasion” and claimed he was part of a militant ultranationalist network named after the “Knights Templar” Christian order.
He said the Knights Templar would lead a revolt against “multiculturalist” governments around Europe, with the aim of deporting Muslims.
Breivik maintains his main goal is to avoid an insanity ruling because that will negate his cause.
If found sane, Breivik could face a maximum 21-year prison sentence or an alternate custody arrangement that would keep him locked up as long as he is considered a menace to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to psychiatric care for as long as he is considered ill.