By Victoria Klesty
KONGSBERG, Norway -A 37-year-old Danish citizen who had converted to Islam is suspected of killing five people with a bow-and-arrow and other weapons in the Norwegian town of Kongsberg in a rare incident of mass killing in Norway, police said on Thursday.
The five people, four women and one man, were between 50 and 70 years old. Two people, including an off-duty police officer, were wounded in the Wednesday evening attacks https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/man-kills-several-people-norway-bow-arrow-attacks-police-say-2021-10-13.
The suspect, who has not been identified, had converted to Islam and police had been worried about signs of his radicalisation, regional police chief Ole Bredrup Saeverud told a news conference.
It was too early to determine whether the attacks should be investigated as an act of terrorism, he said.
“There were concerns over radicalisation … Those reports were followed up,” Saeverud said without elaborating.
The suspect lived in Kongsberg, which is 68 km (42 miles) southwest of the capital, Oslo, and has a population of about 28,000 people.
The death toll was the worst of any attack in Norway since 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a youth camp.
Images from one of the crime scenes showed an arrow that appeared to be stuck in the wall of a wood-panelled building.
Police first received reports of a man carrying a bow and arrow at 1612 GMT on Wednesday. He was first observed by a police unit a few minutes later but managed to escape.
The man fired arrows at the police and he was only apprehended after a hunt of about 35 minutes.
“It is likely that all the killings took place after the first police sighting of him,” Saeverud said.
The suspect is in custody and is believed to have acted alone. He was cooperating with police and had implicated himself in the attacks, although he has not entered a plea.
“He is admitting to the facts of the case,” police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told news agency NTB.
“We’ll have to see if he also pleads guilty,” she later told private broadcaster TV2.
The suspect’s lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, told public broadcaster NRK: “He is cooperating and is giving detailed statements regarding this event.”
Silje Limstrand, a 22-year-old kindergarten employee, was on her way to her a Coop supermarket on Wednesday evening, the alleged site of one of the attacks, when police told her to get away.
“It feels weird, unreal. Kongsberg is a small town where you feel so safe … It is scary,” she said, adding she had not seen the suspect of any of his victims.
“It’s scary to think that I was there at the same time as the suspect,” she told Reuters.
Norway’s incoming prime minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, who is due to take power on Thursday after winning a general election last month, said he had been kept informed by the outgoing government.
“What we’ve learned from Kongsberg bears witness of a gruesome and brutal act,” Stoere said in a statement to news agency NTB.
Norway’s royal family expressed its sympathies.
“We’re horrified by the tragic events at Kongsberg,” King Harald said in a letter to the town’s mayor.
“The rest of the nation stands with you,” the 84-year-old monarch wrote.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was shocked and saddened by the news. “My thoughts are with the victims’ loved ones and all the people of Norway at this very difficult moment,” he said in a tweet.
The police said they were giving information on the man’s nationality after rumours swirled on social media about people not linked to the attacks.
Following the attacks, the police directorate said it had ordered officers nationwide to carry firearms. Norwegian police are normally unarmed but officers have access to guns when needed.