The archery attack which killed five people in Norway at this stage looks like a “terrorist act”, said the Norwegian security services (PST) Thursday, helping to consolidate the trail of Islamist terrorism.
• Read also: Norway: five killed and two injured in an archery attack, the terrorist trail not excluded
The police, for their part, named the alleged perpetrator of the attack which mourned the town of Kongsberg (south-east) on Wednesday evening: Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who converted to Islam and suspected by the past of radicalization.
“The events in Kongsberg have the appearance of a terrorist act at this stage, but the investigation (…) will shed more light on what motivated them,” said the PST in a statement at midday.
Resident of this small town without history of about 25,000 inhabitants some 80 kilometers west of Oslo, Bråthen was arrested Wednesday evening, shortly after the bloody attack with unusual modus operandi.
The suspect, who admitted the facts during his interrogation during the night, “is known to the PST”, said the services in charge of anti-terrorism.
A judge will rule on Friday morning on his placement in pre-trial detention, probably in his absence according to a simplified procedure. According to the prosecutor in charge of the case, he also had to undergo psychiatric examinations.
According to Norwegian media reports, Bråthen has been the target of two court rulings in the past: a ban last year from visiting two close family members after threatening to kill one of them and a burglary and purchase of hashish in 2012.
A video of him dating back to 2017 has also been uncovered by multiple media outlets. We see him make a threatening profession of faith.
“I am a messenger. I came up with a warning: “is this really what you want?” (…) Be a witness that I am a Muslim, ”he declares.
“There have been fears related to radicalization previously,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told a press conference. Those fears dated back to 2020 and before, and had resulted in police follow-up, he said.
According to his lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, the man “explains himself in detail and he speaks and cooperates well with the police”.
Five people, four women and a man aged between 50 and 70, were killed and three others injured in the attack that shocked the peaceful Scandinavian kingdom, already ravaged by two far-right attacks in the past decade.
The attack occurred in several locations in Kongsberg, including a supermarket. It was there that a policeman, who was not on duty at the time, was injured.
The assailant likely acted alone, police said.
The PST has left unchanged its level of threat of attack in the country, considered “moderate”.
Alerted at 6:12 p.m., the police arrested the suspect more than half an hour later at 6:47 p.m. They came under fire from arrows at the time of the arrest and replied with warning shots.
Police said the suspect also used other weapons, the nature of which has not been specified.
A neighbor on condition of anonymity described the suspect as a tall, cropped-haired person. “Never a smile, no expression on his face,” he told AFP, adding that he had seen him “always alone”.
Knut Olav Ouff was going to smoke a cigarette on the doorstep when he was plunged into the midst of the tragedy.
“I saw a friend of mine take cover behind a car and suddenly I heard a snap. I was an archer and I recognized the sound of a bow and the clicking of an arrow reaching the road, ”the fifty-year-old told AFP.
“After that, I saw a man pulling a child out of a car and running towards my house,” he said.
The attack occurred on the last day of the mandate of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who on Thursday handed over the reins to a new center-left government led by Jonas Gahr Støre, winner of the September 13 legislative elections.
The new head of government deplored “horrible acts”. “We are horrified by the tragic events in Kongsberg”, also reacted King Harald V.
Several planned Islamist attacks have been foiled in Norway in the past.
But the country has been bereaved by two far-right attacks over the past ten years, including that of July 22, 2011 by Anders Behring Breivik (77 killed).