KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) -The bow-and-arrow race from a man who killed five people in a small town near Norway’s capital appeared to be an act of terrorism, authorities said Thursday, a bizarre and shocking attack in a Scandinavian country, where violent crime is rare.
Police identified the attacker as Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who was arrested on the street on Wednesday night. They said he used bow and arrow and possibly other weapons to randomly target people at a supermarket and elsewhere in Kongsberg, a town of about 26,000 where he lived.
Witnesses said their quiet neighborhood of wooden houses and birch trees was transformed into a scene of awe-inspiring cries and unrest.
“The scream was so intense and frightening that there was never any doubt that it was something very serious,” said Kurt Einar Voldseth, who had returned home from an errand when he heard the commotion. “I can only describe it as a ‘death cry’ and it burned into my mind.”
Four women and a man between the ages of 50 and 70 were killed and three others were injured, police said.
Andersen Braathen is in custody and will present a custody hearing on Friday. Police said they believe he acted alone.
“The whole act appears to be a terrorist act,” said Hans Sverre Sjoevold, head of Norway’s domestic intelligence service, known as PST.
“We do not know what the perpetrator’s motivation is,” Sjoevold said in English. “We have to wait for the result of the investigation.”
He said the suspect was known to the PST, but he refused to elaborate. The agency said the terrorist threat level for Norway remained unchanged at “moderate”.
Regional Police Chief Ole B. Saeverud described the man as a Muslim convert and said that “there had been concerns in the past that the man had been radicalized”, but he did not elaborate or say why he was previously marked or the authorities did so in response.
Police were alerted to a man who shot arrows around noon. 18:15 and arrested him about 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. ”
She said the bow and arrows were just part of the attacker’s arsenal. Police have not said what other weapons were used.
Norwegian media reported that the suspect had previously been convicted of burglary and possession of drugs, and last year a court announced a ban on staying away from his parents for six months after he threatened to kill one of them .
Svane Mathiassen told the Norwegian television station NRK that the suspect will be examined by forensic psychiatric experts, which “is not unusual in such serious cases.”
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.”
The newly appointed Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called the attack terrible.
“This is unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock, “said Gahr Stoere to the Norwegian television station NRK.
Dozens of people saw the killings. Erik Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket that was attacked, told the AP that he saw shop workers taking shelter 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.
Police, along with reinforcements from other cities, flooded into Kongsberg and blocked several roads. Emergency vehicles’ blue lights and spotlights from a helicopter illuminated the spot.
Thursday morning, the entire city was eerily quiet, he said.
“People are sad and shocked,” Benum said.
The main church in Kongsberg was open to those who needed comfort.
“I do not think anyone expects such experiences. But no one could imagine that this could happen here in our small town, “Pastor Reidar Aasboe told AP.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark and Lewis from London.
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