A 37-year-old man was charged on Thursday in connection with a bow-and-arrow rage in a small town in Norway that killed five people, and police said they had previously been in contact with him out of concern that he had been radicalized.
Four women and a man were killed in the attack, which took place Wednesday night. The attacker, who escaped an initial confrontation with the police, fired a salvo of arrows at seemingly strangers.
“We have previously been in contact with him regarding concerns about radicalization,” said Ole Bredrup Saeverud, regional police chief, about the suspect. He said the man was a convert to Islam, but did not give further details or speculate on the motive.
The police chief said the last time concerns about the man’s radicalization had been brought to the attention of police was last year, but he did not say who had contacted them with those concerns. They only said that the police had followed up on several reports.
Asked if the man might have been motivated by extreme religious ideology, he added: “We do not know, but it is natural to ask the question.”
Fredrik Neumann, the suspect’s court-appointed lawyer, said in an interview that the man cooperated with the authorities and was undergoing a mental health assessment. He said the man, whose mother is a Danish father, is Norwegian, would appear before a judge on Friday, where details of the charges against him would be made public.
The victims Wednesday were aged 50 to 70, Saeverud said, and two people injured in the attack are expected to survive.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, is a Danish citizen who lived in the city, officials said on Thursday. His court-appointed attorney said he cooperated with authorities.
It was the worst mass murder in Norway since 2011, then an extreme right-wing extremist killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a camp.
On Thursday, police offered more details about the attack, which Prime Minister Erna Solberg called “scary.”
The first call to police came at 6:12 p.m., with witnesses describing a scene of chaos and unprovoked violence in a supermarket in the town, Kongsberg, a former silver mining town.
A woman told local news outlet TV2 that she had seen people hiding in front of a man standing on a street corner with “arrows in a shudder on his shoulder and a bow in his hand.” When he shot the arrows, she said, people ran for their lives.
Only six minutes after the first call came to police, officers confronted the attacker. He fired arrows at the officers and escaped.
At one point, the attacker crossed a bridge that stretches across the Numedalslagen River and cut through the city, an urban area that serves as an escape for people seeking refuge from Oslo’s bustle, about 50 miles away.
As he made his way through the city, he apparently attacked people randomly, according to police. One of the injured was a police officer, and a photo of him with an arrow in his back circulated widely online.
Police on Thursday asked the public to “stop sharing photos” and say it is “unwise and disrespectful.”
Police said the attacker had used another weapon in the ravage, although they did not provide further details. But it was the arrows that marked the trail of destruction.
At 18.47, the police detained the suspect – 34 minutes after the first reports of violence.
A police lawyer, Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, told TV2 that it was a suspect had lived in the city for several years.
Murder is rare in Norway. In a country with a population of just over five million, there were 31 murders last year, most involving people who knew each other.
Yet the nation has not yet fully reckoned with the trauma of devastating mass murder in 2011.
The Norwegian authorities have expressed concern that not enough is being done eradicate right-wing extremismespecially among young people. In July, analysts with the country’s intelligence services warned that a decade after the 2011 attack, young men and boys are idolizing the perpetrator.
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