The Danish man, who murdered five people Wednesday, had prior convictions for non-terror related crimes and was known to Norway’s security services.
By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News
A Danish man who admitted killing five people in the Norwegian town of Kongsberg is an Islamic convert, police have said. According to Norway’s security agency, the mass casualty event is being treated as a terror attack.
Reports of a man shooting arrows in Kongsberg, south of Oslo, were made to police just after 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Although initially officers made contact with the suspect, he fled and wasn’t caught until half an hour later. It was during that time that the victims, four women and one man aged between 50 and 70, were killed. Two further victims are in intensive care.
“From what we know now, it is reasonably clear that some, probably everyone, was killed after the police were in contact with the perpetrator,” Police Chief Ole B. Saeverud told journalists during a news conference.
Saeverud told the conference that the suspect was already known to the authorities.
“There earlier had been worries of the man having been radicalized,” he said, adding that there were “complicated assessments related to the motive, and it will take time before this is clarified.”
Norway’s domestic security agency, PST, speculated that the murderer’s actions “currently appear to be an act of terrorism.”
In a statement, the agency said: “Attacks on random people in public places are a recurring modus operandi among extremist Islamists carrying out terror in the West,” adding: “The most probable scenario of an extremely Islamist terrorist attack in Norway is an attack carried out by one or a few perpetrators with simple weapon types, against targets with few or no security measures.”
The agency also confirmed that the suspect was already known to PST but said that the agency was not at liberty “to provide further details about him,” adding: “The investigation will clarify in more detail what the incidents were motivated by.”
According to reports in the Norwegian media, the suspect had previous convictions for burglary and drug possession. He was also last year subject to a restraining order prohibiting contact with his parents for six months after he threatened to kill one of them.
Police revealed that in addition to the bow and arrow used in the attack, he had been armed with other weapons, although they declined to detail what those were. Weapons experts have been called in to help with the investigation.
Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, the police attorney who is leading the investigation, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the suspect will be assessed by forensic psychiatrists, as was “not unusual in such serious cases.”
The suspect “clearly described what he had done,” speaking clearly and calmly to the police following his arrest, Mathiassen told the Associated Press. “He admitted killing the five people,” telling police “I did this,” she reported.
The small town of Kongsberg, home to 26,000 people, has been shaken by the incident, which occurred in front of dozens of witnesses, with the town left eerily quiet on Thursday.
Between 20 and 30 witnesses have already spoken to the police to give their account of what took place, according to Mathiassen.
“There are people who saw him in the city. Before the killings. That is when he injured people,” she said.
Erik Benum, whose home is on the same road as a supermarket that was a location of at least one of the shootings, told AP that he witnessed escaped shop workers hiding. “I saw them hiding in the corner. Then I went to see what was happening, and I saw the police moving in with a shield and rifles. It was a very strange sight,” he said.
“People are sad and shocked,” he added.
Police spokesman Oeyvind Aas commented, “It goes without saying that this is a very serious and extensive situation, and it naturally affects Kongsberg and those who live here.”
Prime Minister-Jonas Gahr Stoere told NRK “This is unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock.”
Parish priest Reidar Aasboe told the AP that the church in Kongsberg was open to anyone in need of support. “I don’t think anyone expects to have these kinds of experiences. But nobody could imagine this could happen here in our little town,” he said.
The suspect was detained and will appear in court for a custody hearing Friday. Police believe that he acted alone.