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Norwegian intelligence says bow and arrow attack that killed five 'appears to be act of terror'

A 37-year-old suspect is in police custody after the deadly attack yesterday evening.

Updated Thu 5:17 PM

2.63040735 Police stand at the scene after an attack in Kongsberg, Norway. Source: Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AP

NORWAY’S INTELLIGENCE SERVICE PST has said that a bow-and-arrow attack that killed five people yesterday seemed to be an “act of terror.”

“The events in Kongsberg currently appear to be an act of terror, but the investigation… will determine in closer detail what the acts were motivated by,” PST said in a statement.

A Danish man suspected of killing five people with a bow and arrows in Norway had converted to Islam and was previously known to police over fears that he had radicalised, officials said.

Five people were killed – four women and one man – and two others were injured on Wednesday in the south-eastern town of Kongsberg in Norway’s deadliest attack in a decade.

“We’re talking about a convert to Islam,” Norwegian police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters today, adding: “There were fears linked to radicalisation previously.”

Saeverud said the 37-year-old suspect, identified by police as Espen Andersen Brathen, had confessed during questioning. Those who were killed during the attack were all aged between 50 and 70.

“We are investigating among other things to determine whether this was a terrorist attack,” Saeverud added.

Reports that linked him to radicalisation pre-dated this year, Saeverud said, and police had followed up at the time. “We haven’t had any reports about him in 2021, but earlier,” he said.

“We’re relatively sure that he acted alone.”

PST also confirmed that the suspect was known to them but declined Thursday to release further details about him.

Norwegian media reported that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against two close family members after threatening to kill one of them and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012. 

Murder in Norway is rare

It was the deadliest attack in the Scandinavian country since far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011. Since then, Norway has seen one other far-right attack, carried out by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who opened fire into a mosque.

Today, it was largely quiet in Kongsberg, a picturesque town of 25,000 people with wooden facades and the foliage changing colour for the autumn.

Streets were almost empty with only a light police presence.

A few police officers stood outside a store where part of the attack took place, and where a chip could be seen in the glass door from some type of shot fired. Two candles flickered outside the town’s church.

Knut Olav Ouff, 54, told AFP he was about to light a cigarette on the doorstep when he found himself in the middle of the tragedy.

“I saw a friend of mine cowering behind a car and then suddenly heard a ‘thung’,” he said.

I could hear the tingling of the arrow hitting the streets. And after that I could see a man drawing a kid out of a car and running towards my house.

Streets were almost empty today with only a light police presence.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen reacted with “great sadness” to the “terrible attack.

The suspect was due to go before a judge tomorrow for a custody hearing and was undergoing a psychiatric examination today, the prosecutor said.

The victims have not yet been named publicly, but one of the wounded was an off-duty police officer who had been in a store.

Norwegian media questioned why it took police more than a half-hour to arrest the suspect after the first reports of the attack.

Police were informed of the attack at 6.13 pm (4.13 Irish time) and the suspect was arrested at 6.47 pm. He fired arrows at police, who responded with warning shots, Saeverud said.

A witness, identified only as Hansine, told commercial television channel TV2 she had heard a disturbance, then saw a woman take cover and “a man standing on the corner with arrows in a quiver on his shoulder and a bow in his hand”.

“Afterwards, I saw people running for their lives. One of them was a woman holding a child by the hand,” she said.

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Arrow stuck in wall

Images in the media showed a black arrow sticking out of a wall and what looked like competition-grade arrows lying on the ground.

Police said the suspect had also used other weapons, but provided no details.

A neighbour, who requested anonymity, decribed the suspect as a big person with short hair and a serious demeanor, who was always seen “alone”.

“No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring,” the neighbour told AFP.

“These events shake us,” said Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who stepped down today, replaced by Jonas Gahr Store, whose Labour Party won recent parliamentary elections.

Store lamented the “horrible acts”, while Norway’s King Harald said he was “appalled by the tragic events”.

Norwegian police are not normally armed, but after the attack, the National Police Directorate ordered that officers be armed nationwide.

Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.

Breivik first set off a bomb in Oslo next to the building that housed the office of the prime minister, then went on a shooting spree at a summer camp for left-wing youth on the island of Utoya.

In August 2019, self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Philip Manshaus opened fire into a mosque on the outskirts of Oslo before being overpowered by worshippers, with no one seriously injured.

He earlier shot dead his step sister, who had been adopted from China, in what prosecutors termed a “racist act”.

Several planned jihadist attacks have also been foiled by security services.

© – AFP, 2021

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