In the aftermath of an unprecedented and deadly archery attack in Kongsberg, Norwegian police partially lifted the veil on Thursday on the alleged perpetrator, a 37-year-old Dane residing in this town in south-eastern Norway, but gray areas remain, in particular on his motivations.
Five people died and two others were injured in the attack which shocked the peaceful Scandinavian kingdom, already ravaged by two far-right attacks in the past decade. While remaining cautious about the possible motives of this new bloody episode, the police did not rule out a terrorist act. The suspect likely acted alone, she said.
Arrested shortly after the incident, he is a 37-year-old Danish national residing in Kongsberg, a small town of about 25,000 inhabitants about 80 kilometers west of Oslo, she said. in a press release. “We decided to confirm this information because many rumors are circulating on social networks around the perpetrator of the attack, some [mettant en cause] people unrelated to the serious acts committed, ”she explained.
The suspect “cooperates well with the police”
Heard by the investigators during the night, he must be presented before a judge during the day with a view to his placement in pre-trial detention. According to his lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, the suspect is cooperative. “He explains himself in detail and he speaks and cooperates well with the police,” he told reporters. According to TV2, he admitted the facts. Also according to the channel, the suspect is a man who converted to Islam and who has a medical history – which the authorities did not want to confirm. Police announced a press conference at 10 a.m. (8 a.m. GMT).
The attack occurred in several places over a large area of Kongsberg, including a supermarket. It was there that a policeman, who was not on duty at the time, was injured. “Given the unfolding of the facts, it is natural to assess whether it is a terrorist attack,” said police official Øyvind Aas on Wednesday. Gray areas remain. Apart from the motive for the attack, no information was provided on the victims. And the Norwegian media were also asking why it took the police more than half an hour after the first alerts to arrest the suspect.
The press published photos of black arrows, visibly competitive, lying on the ground or, for one of them, firmly embedded in a wall. And testimonies are starting to emerge. A woman, Hansine, who partially witnessed the attack, told TV2 that she heard a commotion and saw a woman taking cover as well as “a man around the corner with arrows in a quiver on the shoulder and a bow in the hand ”. “Afterwards, I saw people running for their lives. One of them was a woman who was holding a child by the hand, ”she testified to the channel.
The attack, with an unusual modus operandi, occurred on the last day of the mandate of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who is due to hand over the reins this Thursday to a new center-left government led by Jonas Gahr Støre, winner of the parliamentary elections of September 13. “These events are shaking us,” Erna Solberg said at a press conference late Wednesday.
In response to the attack, the Norwegian Police Directorate decided that officers, who are usually unarmed, would carry weapons on a temporary basis across the country.
A traditionally peaceful nation, Norway has in the past been the target of far-right attacks. On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people by detonating a bomb near the seat of government in Oslo, killing eight, before opening fire on a Labor Youth rally on the island of Utøya, causing 69 other victims. In August 2019, Philip Manshaus also shot in a mosque near Oslo, before being overpowered by worshipers, without causing serious injuries. He had previously racially shot his adoptive half-sister, of Asian origin. Several plans for Islamist attacks were also thwarted.