KONGSBERG, Norway — Norway’s security agency said Thursday a bow-and-arrow attack that killed five people and wounded two others appears to have been an act of terrorism.
“Attacks on random people in public places are a recurring modus operandi among extremist Islamists carrying out terror in the West,” said the domestic security agency, known by its acronym PST.
The agency said that “the most probable scenario of an extremely Islamist terrorist attack in Norway is an attack carried out by one or a few perpetrators with simple weapon types, against targets with few or no security measures.”
Police said earlier that the Danish man who is in custody for the attack on a small town is a Muslim convert who had previously been flagged as having being radicalized.
Police identified the suspect as Espen Andersen Brathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who was a resident of the area, and said he had confessed during questioning. In a deleted YouTube video, he said in English that he was a “messenger” who “comes with a warning,” and continues: “Bear witness that I am a Muslim.”
“There earlier had been worries of the man having been radicalized,” police chief Ole B. Saeverud told a news conference. “We haven’t had any reports about him in 2021, but earlier,” he added.
Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, the police attorney who is leading the investigation, told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the suspect will be assessed by forensic psychiatric experts Thursday.
“This is not unusual in such serious cases,” she was quoted as saying.
The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70, Saeverud said.
The 37-year-old Dane is suspected of having shot at people in a number of locations in the town of Kongsberg on Wednesday evening. Several of the victims were in a supermarket, police said.
Norwegian news agency NTB quoted police as saying the suspect also used other weapons. There was “a confrontation” between officers and the assailant in connection with the arrest, police said but gave no details.
Both the hospitalized victims are in intensive care. They include an off-duty police officer who was inside the supermarket. Their condition was not immediately known.
Police said officers responding to the incident were also shot at with arrows.
The suspect is being held on preliminary charges, which is a step short of formal charges. Police believe he acted alone.
“We have no information indicating anything else, but we are continuing investigations to be completely sure,” Saeverud said.
Police were alerted to the attack around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday and arrested the suspect about 30 minutes later.
Police spokesman Oeyvind Aas said that “we will return to a more detailed description of the course of events when we have a better overview of what happened.”
“It goes without saying that this is a very serious and extensive situation, and it naturally affects Kongsberg and those who live here,” he said.
Prime Minister-designate Jonas Gahr Stoere, who is expected to take office later Thursday, called the attack “horrific.”
“This is unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock,” Gahr Stoere told Norwegian broadcaster NRK on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote on Twitter that he was “shocked and saddened by the tragic news coming from Norway.”
I’m shocked and saddened by the tragic news coming from Norway.
My thoughts are with the victims’ loved ones and all the people of Norway at this very difficult moment.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) October 13, 2021
Town officials said the main church was open to anyone in need of support.
Kongsberg, a small town of some 26,000 inhabitants, is about 66 kilometers (41 miles) southwest of Oslo.
The attack was the deadliest in the country since far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011.
Since then, Norway has seen one other far-right attack, carried out by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who opened fire into a mosque.