By Paul Nordseth, Jan M. Olsen and Mark Lewis | The Associated Press
Kongsberg, Norway – The bow-and-arrow sabotage by a man that killed five people in a small town near the Norwegian capital appears to be a terrorist act, officials said on Thursday, a bizarre and shocking attack in the Scandinavian country. where violent crime is rare.
Police have identified the attacker as Espen Andersen Brathen, 37, a Danish citizen who was arrested on the street on Wednesday night. They said they used bows and arrows and possibly other weapons to randomly target people at a supermarket and other places in Kongsberg, a city of about 26,000.
Witnesses said their quiet neighborhood of wooden houses and birch trees had been turned into a scene of terrible cries and upheaval.
“The shouting was so intense and terrible that there was no doubt that something very serious was going on,” said Kurt Einer Woldseth, who had returned home from work when he heard the commotion. “I can only describe it as a ‘death scream,’ and it burned through my mind.”
Police said four women and a man between the ages of 50 and 70 were killed and three others were injured.
Anderson Brathen is being held on preliminary charges and will face a custodial hearing on Friday. Police said they believe he acted alone.
“The whole act appears to be an act of terror,” said Hans Severe Sjövöld, head of Norway’s domestic intelligence service, known as PST.
“We don’t know what the perpetrator’s motivation is,” Sjoevold said in English. “We will have to wait for the outcome of the investigation.”
He said the suspect knew PST, but declined to elaborate. The agency said the terror threat level to Norway remained unchanged at “moderate”.
Regional police chief Ole B. Severud described the man as a Muslim convert and said that “there were concerns at first about the man being radicalized,” but did not elaborate or explain why he had been flagged earlier or what officials had reacted to. did.
Norwegian media reported that the suspect had been convicted of theft and drug possession, and last year a deterrent for being away from his parents for six months after a court threatened to kill one of them. had ordered.
Sven Mathiassen told broadcaster NRK that the suspect would be examined by forensic psychiatry specialists, which is “not uncommon in such serious cases.”
At around 6:15 pm, a person was informed about the shooting of arrows by the police and he was arrested after about 30 minutes. Regional prosecutor Ann Irene Sven Mathiassen told The Associated Press that after his arrest, he “described clearly what he had done. He admitted to killing five people.”
He said the bow and arrow were part of the attacker’s arsenal. Police did not say what other weapons were used, but Woldseth told the AP that when he ran to the sound of screams, he saw a woman being stabbed by a man with some sort of weapon. Have given.
Woldseth said he recognized the attacker, adding that he lived nearby and “usually walks with his head down and headphones on.”
“I’ve only talked to him a few times, but I think he might be a problem person,” he said.
Mass killings are rare in low-crime Norway, and the attack immediately recalls the country’s worst peacetime killing a decade ago, when a right-wing domestic extremist killed 77 people with bombs, rifles and pistols .
People “have experienced that their safe local environment has suddenly become a dangerous place,” said King Harald V. “It shakes us all when terrible things happen to us, when you least expect it, in the middle of everyday life on the open road.”
Newly appointed Prime Minister Jonas Gahar Storey called the attack “horrific”.
“It is untrue. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock,” Gahar Storey told NRK.
Dozens of people witnessed the killings. Eric Benam, who lives on the same street as the supermarket that was attacked, told the AP that he saw shop workers taking shelter at the door.
“I saw them hiding in the corner. Then I went to see what was happening, and I saw the police coming in with shields and rifles. It was a very strange scene,” Benam said.
Police, along with reinforcements from other towns, flooded Kongsberg and blocked many roads. Blue lights from emergency vehicles and spotlights from a helicopter illuminated the scene.
He told that there was silence in the entire city on Thursday morning.
“People are sad and shocked,” Benam said.
Flags were lowered to half-staff, and residents placed flowers, candles and stuffed animals around a makeshift monument in a central square.
Mayor Kari Anne Sand described the last 24 hours as a “nightmare”.
“The city was attacked last night and five people died. I think most of the residents are quite shocked that something like this could happen here. It is a quiet city, a quiet municipality,” she said, adding that health and social services officials are working to care for those who need assistance.
The main church in Kongsberg was also open to those in need of rest.
“I don’t think anyone expected an experience like this. But no one could have imagined that here in our small town something like this could happen,” Rev. Reedar Asbo told the AP.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark and Lewis from London.