By PAAL NORDSETH, JAN M. OLSEN and MARK LEWIS
KONGSBERG, Norway (AP) – The unleashing of bows and arrows by a man who killed five people in a small town near the Norwegian capital appeared to be an act of terrorism, authorities said on Thursday, a bizarre and shocking attack in a Scandinavian country where violence and crime are rare.
Police identified the assailant as Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, who was arrested in the street on Wednesday evening. They said he used bows and arrows and possibly other weapons to randomly target people in a supermarket and other places in Kongsberg, a town of about 26,000 people where he lived.
Witnesses said their quiet neighborhood of wooden houses and birch trees turned into a scene of terrifying screams and unrest.
“The screams were so intense and horrible that there was no doubt something very serious was going on,” said Kurt Einar Voldseth, who had returned home from a run when he heard the commotion. “I can only describe it as a ‘cry of death’, and it stuck on my mind.”
Four women and a man aged 50 to 70 were killed and three others were injured, police said.
Andersen Braathen is being held on preliminary charges and will face a custody hearing on Friday. Police said they believed he acted alone.
“The whole act appears to be an act of terror,” said Hans Sverre Sjoevold, head of the Norwegian domestic intelligence service, known as PST.
“We don’t know what the aggressor’s motivation is,” Sjoevold said in English. “We have to wait for the outcome of the investigation.”
He said the suspect was known to the PST, but declined to give details. The agency said the level of terrorist threat to Norway remained unchanged at “moderate”.
Regional Police Chief Ole B. Saeverud described the man as a Muslim convert and said that “there had previously been concerns about the radicalization of the man”, but he did not explained or explained why it had already been reported or what authorities had done in response.
Norwegian media reported that the suspect was convicted of burglary and drug possession, and last year a court granted him an order not to approach his parents for six months after threatening to kill him. one of them.
Svane Mathiassen told NRK television that the suspect would be examined by forensic psychiatry experts, which is “not unusual in such serious cases”.
Police were alerted by a man shooting arrows around 6:15 p.m. and arrested him about 30 minutes later. Regional prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told The Associated Press that after his arrest he “clearly described what he had done. He admitted to killing all five people.
She said the bow and arrows were part of the attacker’s arsenal. Police did not say what other weapons were used, but Voldseth told the AP that when he ran towards the sound of screaming he saw a woman being stabbed by a man with some sort of armed.
Voldseth said he recognized the assailant, saying he lived nearby and “usually marked with his head down and headphones on”.
“I only spoke to him a few times, but I felt like he might be a problem person,” he said.
Massacres are rare in low-crime Norway, and the attack immediately recalled the country’s worst peacetime massacre a decade ago, when a right-wing national extremist killed 77 people with a bomb, gun and a gun.
People have “experienced that their safe local environment has suddenly become a dangerous place,” said King Harald V. “It shakes us all when horrible things happen near us, when we expect it to happen. less, in the middle of everyday life in the middle of the street. “
New Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called the attack “horrific”.
“It’s unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock, ”Gahr Stoere told NRK.
Dozens of people saw the murders. Erik Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket that was attacked, told AP he saw store workers take refuge in the doorway.
“I saw them hiding in a corner. Then I went to see what was going on and saw the police come in with a shield and guns. It was a very strange sight, ”said Benum.
Police, along with reinforcements from other towns, invaded Kongsberg and blocked several roads. Blue lights from emergency vehicles and searchlights from a helicopter illuminated the scene.
On Thursday morning, the whole city was eerily quiet, he said.
“People are sad and shocked,” Benum said.
Flags were half-masted and locals placed flowers, candles and stuffed animals around a makeshift memorial in a central plaza.
Mayor Kari Anne Sand has described the past 24 hours as a “nightmare”.
“The city was attacked last night and five people died. I think most of the locals are quite shocked that such a thing could happen here. It’s a quiet town, a quiet municipality, ”she said, adding that health and social service officials are working to take care of those who need help.
Kongsberg’s main church was also open to those in need of comfort.
“I don’t think anyone expects these kinds of experiences. But no one could imagine that this could happen here in our small town, ”Reverend Reidar Aasboe told the AP.
Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Lewis from London.