Signs of radicalisation in bow-and-arrow attack suspect- Norway police

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(C) Reuters. An arrow left in a wall is seen after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using a bow and arrows to carry out attacks, in Kongsberg, Norway, October 13, 2021. Terje Bendiksby/NTB/via REUTERS

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By Victoria Klesty

KONGSBERG, Norway (Reuters) – Police had concerns about signs of radicalisation in the Danish convert to Islam who is suspected of killing five people with a bow-and-arrow and other weapons in a Norwegian town, a senior officer said on Thursday.

Flags flew at half-mast across Kongsberg where four women and a man, all aged between 50 and 70, were killed. Three people, including an off-duty police officer, were wounded in the attack on Wednesday evening.

Kongsberg resident Markus Kultima, 23, who works in a beer shop and lives above the store, witnessed parts of the attack.

“I saw a man come walking with an arrow in his back,” Kultima told Reuters. He said it was the off-duty officer who told him to head home.

“I had to walk in the direction where that guy came from. That was very heavy,” Kultima said.

Police said on Thursday three people had been injured. Two had initially been reported hurt on Wednesday, but it emerged that one person had sought medical help independently of emergency first responders.

The 37-year-old suspect was in custody and was believed to have acted alone, police said. His lawyer said he was cooperating with police. A court will decide on Friday how long police can keep the man in custody.

“The events at Kongsberg appear at the moment to be an act of terror,” the PST security police said in a statement, adding the investigation will determine the motive.

The suspect, who has not been identified by police, had converted to Islam and police had been worried about signs of his radicalisation, regional police chief Ole Bredrup Saeverud told a news conference.

“Police have previously been in contact with the man in relation to trouble connected to radicalisation. We haven’t registered anything in regards to him in 2021, but previously,” Saeverud said.

The man will also have a psychiatric evaluation, police said. A relative of the suspect, speaking on condition of anonymity to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, described him as mentally ill and said the family had suffered threats for several years.

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.

TRIBUTE BY PRIME MINISTER

The attacks on Wednesday took place over “a large area” of Kongsberg, a municipality of about 28,000 people in southeastern Norway, 68 km (42 miles) from the capital, Oslo. The suspect lives in the town.

Few details have emerged about how the incident unfolded or the specifics of the weapons used.

Police said they 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 escaped.

He fired arrows at the police and was 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.

Images from one of the crime scenes showed an arrow that appeared to be stuck in the wall of a wood-panelled building.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, on his first day in office after winning an election last month, said: “My first thoughts go to Kongsberg, those who a lost their lives, those who were injured and those who live with the shock.”

The attack also highlights shortcomings in Norway’s psychiatric care, Stoere told a news conference.

“The last 24 hours have shown that we have significant challenges,” he said. “One in four or one in five who are referred to (treatment) are being turned down.”

Norway’s royal family expressed their sympathies. King Harald said in a letter to the town’s mayor: “The rest of the nation stands with you.”

Those laying flowers and candles in tribute spoke of their shock in a country where such mass killings are rare.

“I want to show my sympathy and empathy to all those affected here in town and across Norway actually because it affects all of us, regardless of who we are – young and old,” Kongsberg resident Line Leirmo said.

The suspect’s lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, told public broadcaster NRK, he was cooperating and giving detailed statements regarding the incident.

Police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told news agency NTB he had implicated himself in the attacks, but had not entered a plea.

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