A Danish convert to Islam has been charged in Norway with killing five people and injuring two in a bow-and-arrow attack that “appears . . . to be an act of terrorism”, the country’s intelligence service said on Thursday.
Norwegian police in Kongsberg — a town 70km west of the capital Oslo — said a 37-year-old Danish citizen was arrested on Wednesday evening and charged overnight. The man was a convert to Islam who had previously been reported to police over fears he had been radicalised, they said. There was no indication anybody else was involved, they added.
Norway’s police intelligence service said on Thursday that the assault “appears at the moment to be an act of terrorism” but that the investigation would reveal the full motive.
The arrested man, who lives in Norway, was reported to police several times in 2020 over concerns he had been radicalised after his conversion to Islam. Officers had followed up each time and no new complaint had been registered this year, Ole Saeverud, the local police chief, said on Thursday morning.
Norway has suffered several acts of terrorism by rightwing extremists in recent years, including a 2011 attack on the then ruling Labour party’s youth camp and government buildings in Oslo that killed 77 people. But unlike Scandinavian neighbours Sweden and Denmark, the country of 5.4m people has never experienced a deadly Islamist terror attack.
Police said four women and one man — all aged between 50 and 70 — had died and two had been seriously injured, including an off-duty policeman.
Saeverud said police had first seen the suspect within minutes of receiving the first call about the attack but that officers had lost contact with him. Some of the killings, and probably all of them, occurred in the 30 minutes before police found him again. They arrested him after firing warning shots, Saeverud added.
During the attack, the suspect moved around several locations in the university town of 28,000 — which is also home to Norway’s biggest defence contractor — including a Co-op supermarket. Police said that the man had used other weapons in addition to a bow and arrow and added that he had co-operated with them in an interview overnight.
Norwegian media named the accused as Espen Andersen Braathen.
The news of the attack came as Norway changed government on Thursday, with centre-left Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store taking over as prime minister.
“It is horrible what has been revealed. It is shocking to think about what people have experienced,” Store said on Thursday as he presented his new government, which includes two survivors of the 2011 attacks.
Outgoing centre-right prime minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday night: “The news is gruesome. These events shake us. I understand that many are afraid. That is why it’s important to emphasise that police are in control.”
Norwegian police on Wednesday evening issued a temporary order for officers to carry weapons nationwide after the attack but said there was no specific threat. Saeverud said they based their belief that he acted alone on the events and their prior knowledge of the man charged.