A Danish man suspected of killing five people with a bow and arrow and possibly other weapons, while accidentally shooting at strangers in a small Norwegian town, appears to have committed a terrorist act, the authorities in Norway said on Thursday.
On Wednesday night, the attack on a supermarket and other places in Kongsberg center, a town with about 26,000 inhabitants not far from Norway’s capital, left the country amazed when the police published some details, including that officers contacted the 37-year-old suspect, but he escaped initially.
“From what we know now, it is fairly clear that some, probably all, were killed after the police were in contact with the perpetrator,” said Regional Police Chief Ole B. Saeverud on Thursday. The victims were four women and a man between 50 and 70 years old. Three other people were injured, police said.
Mass killings are rare in low-crime Norway, and the attack immediately drew comparisons to the country’s worst peacetime massacre ten years ago, when a far-right domestic extremist killed 77 people with a bomb, a rifle and a pistol.
People have “experienced that their safe local environment suddenly became a dangerous place,” Norwegian King Harald V said on Thursday. “It shakes us all when terrible things happen near us, when you least expect it, in the middle of everyday life on the open street.”
According to police, in Wednesday’s attack, the suspect walked around the center of Kongsberg and shot arrows. Police were alerted to the attack around 6.15pm and arrested the suspect approximately 30 minutes later. Regional prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told the Associated Press that after the man’s arrest, he “clearly described what he had done. He admitted to killing the five people. ”
Norway’s domestic security agency, known by its acronym PST, cited various aspects of the attack to explain its belief that the suspect’s actions “currently appear to be a terrorist act.”
“Attacks on random people in public places are a recurring modus operandi among extremist Islamists carrying out terror in the West,” the agency said. It said “the most likely scenario” for such an attack in Norway “is an attack carried out by one or a few perpetrators with simple weapon types against targets with few or no security measures.”
“The investigation will clarify in more detail what the incidents were motivated by,” PST said in a statement.
The man who was arrested on Wednesday had been on the security agency’s radar, but the agency did not say why. Police described him as a Muslim convert who was previously marked as being radicalized.
“There had previously been concerns that the man had been radicalized,” Saeverud, the police chief, said during a press conference. He did not elaborate on what he meant by calling the suspect radicalized and did not provide further information on why the suspect was previously flagged and what the authorities did in response.
Prosecutor Svane Mathiassen said the bow and arrows were just part of the killer’s arsenal. Police have not said what other weapons were used in the attack. Weapons experts and other technical officers were drafted to help with the investigation.
Dozens of witnesses in Kongsberg saw the horrific events. Erik Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket, which was one of the crime scenes, told the AP that he saw the fleeing shop workers lying in doorways.
“I saw them hiding in the corner. Then I went to see what happened and I saw the police move in with a shield and rifles. It was a very strange sight, “said Benum.
The following morning, the entire city was eerily quiet, he said. “People are bored and bored of it.”
Both the hospitalized victims are on intensive care. They include a police officer who was off duty and who was inside the store. Their relationship was not immediately known.
The suspect has been detained on preliminary charges, which is one step less than formal charges. He will be formally subjected to a custody hearing on Friday. Police believe he acted alone.
Norwegian media reported that the suspect had previously been convicted of burglary and possession of drugs, and last year a local court announced a ban on staying away from his parents for a period of six months after he threatened to kill one of Dem.
Svane Mathiassen, who is leading the investigation, told the Norwegian television station NRK that the suspect on Thursday will be assessed by forensic psychiatric experts.
“This is not unusual in such severe cases,” she was quoted as saying.
PST said on Thursday that the terrorist threat level for Norway remains unchanged and is considered “moderate”. The main church in Kongsberg was open to anyone who needed support.
“I do not think anyone expects such experiences. But no one could imagine that this could happen here in our small town, “parish priest Reidar Aasboe told AP.
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