Norway calls deadly bow-and-arrow killings in Kongsberg an ‘act of terror’

Police charge 'known convert' Espen Andersen Braathen with the murder of five people

Norwegian authorities said on Thursday the bow-and-arrow rampage by a man who killed five people in a small town appeared to be a terrorist act.

Police identified the attacker as Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who was arrested Wednesday night.

They said he used the bow and arrow and possibly other weapons to target people randomly at a supermarket and other locations in Kongsberg, a town of about 26,000 where he lived, before he was seized by police on the street.

Police said they believe he acted alone.

“The whole act appears to be an act of terror,” said Hans Sverre Sjoevold, head of Norway’s domestic intelligence service, known as the PST.

”We do not know what the motivation of the perpetrator. We have to wait for the outcome of the investigation.”

He said the suspect was known to police.

Regional Police Chief Ole B Saeverud described the man as being known as a Muslim convert and said there “earlier had been worries of the man having been radicalised”.

Police said four women and one man all aged 50 and 70 were killed. Three other people were wounded, police said.

Andersen Braathen is being held on preliminary charges and will face formal charges Friday.

Witness recounts seeing murderous bowman

Local media reported that Andersen Braathen lives in Kongsberg, the town in which the attack took place, and may also have used knives in the assault. Kongsberg is 66 kilometres south-west of capital city Oslo.

One witness described how people ran for cover. She told TV2, a local outlet, that she saw a woman taking cover before noticing a “man standing on the corner with arrows in a quiver on his shoulder and a bow in his hand".

“Afterwards, I saw people running for their lives. One of them was a woman holding a child by the hand,” she said.

Other witnesses described seeing victims lying on the ground as people screamed for help.

The wounded were taken to hospital and admitted to intensive care. Police said an officer was inside the Co-op Extra supermarket on the west side of the town when the attack unfolded.

Officers were alerted at 6.15pm on Wednesday and arrested the suspect about 30 minutes later.

A member of the police forensics team at the scene in Kongsberg. AFP

Oyvind Aas, head of police operations in Kongsberg, said the attack had made a “deep impression on [the town]”.

On Thursday residents of the town gathered on a street near the crime scene on Thursday to leave candles, flowers and stuffed toys and mourn the victims.

Rebecca Lisbeth Utgard, a student in Kongsberg, told TV2 she felt "very scared".

“There were a lot of people running around, checking that everyone was okay. It was chaotic,” she said.

Reidar Aasbo, the vicar of Kongsberg Church, said the assault was "a little hard to take in and I think many are shocked".

I understand that many people are afraid but it's important to emphasise that the police are now in control
Erna Solberg, acting Norway prime minister

He said it felt "unreal that it should happen here in our town”.

Ida Skinness, who lives near the supermarket, was on her way out when her flatmate shouted at her to stay inside.

“Then I heard howls and screams outside and saw people running and then a lot of blue lights,” she told TV2.

The suspect's lawyer said his client was co-operating with the police.

“He is co-operating and is giving detailed statements regarding this event,” lawyer Fredrik Neumann told broadcaster NRK.

Police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told news agency NTB the suspect had not yet entered a plea but “is admitting to the facts of the case".

Acting Prime Minister Erna Solberg described the attack as “gruesome”.

“I understand that many people are afraid but it's important to emphasise that the police are now in control,” she said.

The prime minister-designate, Jonas Gahr Stoere, scheduled to take office on Thursday, called the assault “a cruel and brutal act”.

An arrow embedded in a wall after the attack. NTB via AP

Officers were on Thursday combing the crime scene looking for other weapons the attacker may have used.

City officials invited people who were affected by the attack and their relatives to gather for support at a local hotel.

King Harald, Norway’s reigning monarch, expressed his sympathies in a letter addressed to the town’s mayor.

"We're horrified by the tragic events at Kongsberg," the monarch, 82, wrote. "The rest of the nation stands with you.”

Updated: November 22, 2021, 9:08 AM