PAAL NORDZET, JEN M. OLSEN and MARK LEWIS
KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) – A riot of bow and arrow from a man who killed five people in a small town near the Norwegian capital turned out to be a terrorist attack, authorities said Thursday, a bizarre and shocking attack in a Scandinavian country where violent attacks have taken place. crime is rare.
Police identified the attacker as Espen Andersen Braaten, a 37-year-old Danish citizen arrested in the street on Wednesday night. They said he used a bow and arrow and possibly other weapons to randomly target people in a supermarket and elsewhere in Kongsberg, the city of about 26,000 where he lived.
Witnesses said that their quiet neighborhood with wooden houses and birch trees turned into an arena of terrifying screams and turmoil.
“The scream was so strong and terrifying that there was no doubt that something very serious was going on,” said Kurt Einar Waldset, who returned home from an errand when he heard the noise. “I can only describe it as a ‘death scream’ and it stuck in my head.”
According to police, four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70 were killed and three others were injured.
Andersen Braaten is being held on preliminary charges and is due for a custody hearing on Friday. Police said they believed he acted alone.
“It all looks like a terrorist attack,” said Hans Sverre Shoevold, head of Norway’s internal intelligence service known as the PST.
“We don’t know what the motivation of the offender is,” Shoewold said in English. “We need to wait for the results of the investigation.”
He said the suspect was known to the PST but declined to provide details. The agency said the level of terrorist threat to Norway remained unchanged – “moderate”.
Regional police chief Ole B. Saevrud described the man as a convert to Muslim and said that “he used to worry about the radicalization of this person,” but did not elaborate or say why he was previously tagged or what the authorities did in response.
Norwegian media reported that the suspect was convicted of burglary and drug possession, and last year a court ordered him to stay away from his parents for six months after threatening to kill one of them.
Svane Mathiassen told NRK TV that the suspect will be examined by forensic psychiatric experts, which “is not unusual in such serious cases.”
Police were alerted to the man shooting arrows at about 6:15 pm and arrested him about 30 minutes later. Regional Attorney Anne Irene Svane Mathiassen told The Associated Press that after his arrest, he “clearly described what he did. He admitted that he had killed five people. “
She said the bow and arrow were only part of the attacker’s arsenal. Police did not say what other weapons were being used, but Waldset told the AP that as he ran towards the sound of the screams, he saw a woman who was stabbed by a man with a weapon.
Waldset said he recognized the attacker, saying that he lived nearby and “usually walks with his head down and wearing headphones.”
“I only spoke to him a few times, but I got the impression that he might be in trouble,” he said.
Massacres are rare in Norway with a low crime rate, and the attack immediately reminded of the worst peacetime massacre in the country a decade ago, when a right-wing internal extremist killed 77 people with a bomb, rifle and pistol.
People “felt that their safe local environment suddenly turned into a dangerous place,” said King Harald V. “We are all shocked when terrible things happen near us, when you least expect it, in the middle of everyday life on an open street.”
Newly appointed Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoer called the attack “horrific”.
“This is unrealistic. But in reality, five people were killed, many were injured and many were shocked, ”Gar Stour told NRK.
Dozens of people have seen the killings. Eric Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket that was attacked, told the AP that he saw shop workers hiding in doorways.
“I saw them hiding in the corner. Then I went to see what was happening and saw the police approaching with a shield and rifles. It was a very strange sight, ”Benum said.
The police, together with reinforcements from other cities, broke into Kongsberg and blocked several roads. Blue lights from emergency vehicles and helicopter searchlights illuminated the scene.
It was eerily quiet throughout the city on Thursday morning, he said.
“People are upset and shocked,” Benum said.
Flags were lowered to half of the staff, and residents laid flowers, candles and stuffed animals around a makeshift memorial in the central square.
Mayor Kari Ann Sand has described the last 24 hours as a “nightmare”.
“Last night the city was attacked and five people were killed. I think that most of the residents are shocked that this could happen here. It’s a quiet town, a quiet municipality, ”she said, adding that health and social workers are working to take care of those in need.
The main church in Kongsberg was also open to those in need of comfort.
“I don’t think anyone is expecting such an experience. But no one could have imagined that this could happen here in our small town, ”Rev. Reidar Osboe told AP.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Lewis from London.