KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) – A Danish man suspected of killing five people with bows and arrows and possibly other weapons while accidentally shooting at strangers in a small Norwegian town appears to have committed a terrorist attack, Norwegian authorities said Thursday.
On Wednesday night, an attack on a supermarket and other locations in downtown Kongsberg, a city of about 26,000 near the Norwegian capital, stunned the country as police released some details, including information that officers had contacted the 37-year-old suspect. but first he ran away.
“From what we know now, it is clear enough that some, possibly all, were killed after the police contacted the perpetrator,” Regional Police Chief Ole B. Saevrud said Thursday. The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70. According to the police, three more people were injured.
Massacres are rare in low-crime Norway, and the attack was immediately compared to the worst peace massacre in the country a decade ago, when a right-wing internal extremist killed 77 people with a bomb, rifle and pistol.
As King Harald V of Norway said Thursday, the people “felt that their safe local environment had suddenly become a dangerous place.” “We are all shocked when terrible things happen near us, when you least expect it, in the middle of everyday life on the open street.”
According to police, the suspect in the attack on Wednesday walked through the center of Kongsberg, shooting arrows. Police were alerted to the attack at about 6:15 pm and arrested the suspect about 30 minutes later. Regional Attorney Anne Irene Svane Mathiassen told The Associated Press that after the man was arrested, he “clearly described what he did. He admitted that he had killed five people. “
The Norwegian Homeland 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 regular method of action by extremist Islamists who carry out terror in the West,” the agency said in a statement. It stated that the “most likely scenario” for such an attack in Norway is “an attack by one or more criminals using simple types of weapons against targets with little or no security.”
“The investigation will clarify in more detail what the incidents were motivated by,” the PST said in a statement.
The man arrested Wednesday was on the radar of security, but the agency did not say why. The police described him as a Muslim convert who had previously been marked as radicalized.
“There were earlier concerns about the radicalization of this person,” Saevrud, 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 tagged or what the authorities did in response.
Prosecutor Svane Mathiassen stated that the bow and arrow were only part of the assassin’s arsenal. The police did not say what other weapons were used in the attack. Weapons experts and other technical officers were called in to assist with the investigation.
Dozens of witnesses in Kongsberg saw the terrible events. Eric Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket that was one of the crime scenes, told the AP that he saw escaped store 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 next morning, the whole city was eerily quiet, he said. “People are upset and shocked.”
Both hospitalized victims are in intensive care. Among them is a police officer on duty who was inside the store. Their terms were not immediately known.
The suspect is being held on preliminary charges, a step pending formal charges. On Friday, he is officially due for custody hearings. The police believe he acted alone.
Norwegian media reported that the suspect had previously been convicted of burglary and drug possession, and last year a local court issued a restraining order ordering him to stay away from his parents for six months after he threatened to kill one of them.
Svane Matiassen, who is leading the investigation, told Norwegian television station NRK that the suspect will be evaluated by forensic psychiatric experts on Thursday.
“In such serious cases, this is not unusual,” she said.
The PST said Thursday that the terrorist threat level for Norway remains unchanged and is considered “moderate.” The main church in Kongsberg was open to anyone in need of support.
“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, ”Parish priest Reydar Osboe told AP.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Lewis from London.