PAAL NORDZET, JEN M. OLSEN and MARK LEWIS
KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) – Norwegian authorities said Thursday that the bow and arrow rampage perpetrated by the man who killed five people in the small town turned out to be a terrorist attack, a shocking attack in a Scandinavian country where violent crime is rare.
Police identified the attacker as Espen Andersen Braaten, a 37-year-old Danish citizen arrested 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, a city of about 26,000 where he lived before he was captured by police on the street.
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 previously known to the PST but declined to provide details.
Regional police chief Ole B. Severud described the man as a well-known Muslim convert and said that “he used to be worried about the radicalization of this man,” but he did not elaborate or say why he was previously flagged or the authorities responded.
Police said four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70 were killed. Police said three more people were injured.
Andersen Braaten is being held on preliminary charges and will face formal charges on Friday.
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.”
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 Norwegian TV channel NRK.
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 the man was arrested, he “clearly described what he did. He admitted that he had killed five people. “
Dozens of people have seen the killings. Eric Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket that was attacked, told the Associated Press that he saw store workers take cover 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.
It was eerily quiet throughout the city on Thursday morning, he said.
“People are upset and shocked,” Benum said.
Prosecutor Svane Mathiassen said the bow and arrow were only part of the attacker’s arsenal. The police did not say what other weapons were used.
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.