The suspect in the bow-and-arrow slaughter of five people in Norway on Wednesday is being treated as a terrorist suspect. Norwegian police have named him as 37-year-old Espen Andersen Bråthen, a Dane who had converted to Islam.
The police said they were treating the attack as an act of terror after officers revealed the suspect had converted to Islam. They said that they had concerns about his radicalization.
The Wednesday night attack at a supermarket and other locations, took place in downtown Kongsberg. It is a town of about 26,000 residents not far from Norway’s capital of Oslo. The attack has left the country stunned.
Four women and one man were killed in the attack, while three others were injured. As yet, none has been formally identified by the authorities. “They are all aged 50 to 70 years,” the police said.
Norway attack suspect on police’s radar in the past
The investigation “will clarify in more detail what the incidents were motivated by,” the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) said on Thursday. “The police have previously been in contact with the man, as a result of concerns related to radicalization,” police chief Ole Bredrup Sæverud told reporters.
The suspect had not appeared on their radar this year, however, Sæverud indicated. He said that the police had “received no reports in 2021 regarding Muslim radicalization.”
The suspect was arrested at 6:47 p.m. local time, by which time 22 police patrols had been deployed in the area. Warning shots were fired by the police at the time of the arrest, Sæverud said.
The attack came on the eve of a new government taking office after last month’s elections unseated the long-ruling Conservative Party. Labor leader Jonas Gahr Store is due to assume the role of Prime Minister on Thursday.
People have “experienced that their safe local environment suddenly became a dangerous place,” Norwegian King Harald V said on Thursday. In a Facebook post, incoming PM Store described the attack as a “cruel and brutal act.”
Mass killings very rare in Norway
Mass killings are rare in low-crime Norway. The attack immediately drew comparisons with the country’s worst peacetime slaughter in 2011. Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing domestic extremist, killed 77 people with a bomb, a rifle and a pistol in that lone-wolf attack.
In August 2019, another man stormed an Oslo mosque armed with guns before being overpowered. Later that year, the country’s intelligence service reported that right-wing terrorism was on the rise globally.
According to the Norwegian police, the suspect in Wednesday’s attack walked around downtown Kongsberg shooting arrows. Regional prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, said that after Bråthen’s arrest, he “clearly described what he had done. He admitted killing the five people.”
Norway’s domestic security agency, PST, cited various aspects of the attack to explain its belief that the suspect’s actions “currently appear to be an act of terrorism.”