A 37-year-old man who police said was a recent convert to Islam and showed signs of radicalization was charged on Thursday in connection with a rampage of bows and arrows in the center of a small mining town in Norway that killed five people. people.
Four women and a man were killed in the assault, which took place Wednesday evening. The assailant, who escaped a first confrontation with the police, fired a volley of arrows at apparent strangers.
“We have already been in contact with him regarding concerns about radicalization,” Ole Bredrup Saeverud, the regional police chief, said of the suspect. He did not give further details or speculate on the motive.
The victims were between 50 and 70 years old, Saeverud said, and two people injured in the attack are expected to survive.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, is a Danish citizen who lived in the city, officials said Thursday. His court-appointed lawyer said he was cooperating with authorities, but authorities refused to speculate on his motive in the attack.
It is the worst massacre in Norway since 2011, when a far-right extremist killed 77 people, most of them teenagers in a camp.
As the nation reeled on Thursday, with Prime Minister Erna Solberg calling the violence “terrifying,” police provided more details of the attack.
The first police call came at 6:12 p.m., with witnesses describing a scene of chaos and unprovoked violence at a supermarket in the town, Kongsberg, a former silver mining village.
A woman told local media TV2 that she saw people hiding from a man standing on a street corner with “arrows in a quiver on his shoulder and a bow in his hand”. As he shot the arrows, she said, people ran for their lives.
Just six minutes after the first call to the police arrived, the officers confronted the assailant. He shot arrows at the officers and escaped.
At one point, the assailant crossed a bridge spanning the Numedalslagen River and passed through town, a bucolic area that serves as an escape for those seeking refuge from the bustle of Oslo, around 80 kilometers away.
As he made his way through town, he attacked seemingly random people, police said. One of the injured was a police officer on leave, and a photo of him with an arrow on his back has been circulating widely online.
Police on Thursday asked the public to “please stop sharing photos”, saying it was “reckless and disrespectful”.
Police said the assailant used a second weapon in the rampage, but did not provide further details. But it was the arrows that marked the trail of devastation.
At 6:47 p.m., police arrested the suspect – 34 minutes after the first reports of violence.
Police lawyer Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told TV2 that the suspect had lived in the city for several years.
Fredrik Neumann, the suspect’s duty counsel, said the man was in custody in the nearby town of Drammen and was cooperating with authorities.
Murder is rare in Norway. In a country of just over five million people, there were 31 murders last year, most involving people who knew each other.
Yet the nation has yet to fully take into account the trauma of the devastating 2011 massacres.
Norwegian authorities have expressed concern that not enough is being done to eradicate right-wing extremism, especially among young people. In July, analysts from the country’s intelligence services warned that a decade after the 2011 attack, there were young men and boys who idolized the shooter.