Norwegian town absorbs horror of local bow and arrow attack
KONGSBERG from Norway
Residents of a Norwegian town with a proud heritage of producing coins, weapons and silver struggled on Friday with the gruesome knowledge that a resident of their community had used a bow and arrow to attack people shopping or other evening activities – and had managed to kill five people. of them.
In a central square in Kongsberg, a former mining town of 26,000 people surrounded by mountains and located southwest of the Norwegian capital, people laid flowers and lit candles in honor of the four women and a man died in Wednesday’s attack. The victims were between 50 and 70 years old, police said.
“It’s a small community, so almost everyone knows each other, so it’s a very strange and very sad experience for us,” said Ingeborg Spangelo, a teacher who took her students to the impromptu memorial. “It’s almost surreal or unreal.”
Officers arrested a Kongsberg resident identified as Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen. He was detained about half an hour after he allegedly started shooting arrows at a supermarket where police tried to confront him but lost sight of him when he shot them and they had to seek shelter, law enforcement authorities said.
Andersen Braathen moved from the supermarket to a quiet downtown area of wooden houses and birch trees, where he shot people on the street and inside some apartments, police said. In addition to the five people killed, three were injured.
Senior Police Officer Per Thomas Omholt said on Friday a total of three weapons were used in the attack, but declined to identify the types or reveal how the five victims were killed, saying investigators should question no more cookies and don’t want their accounts tainted. by what they read in the news.
The agents who responded to the first alert at 6:13 a.m. pm, met the author in the supermarket. It was there that a policeman who was not on duty and who was shopping was injured, who was reportedly hit by an arrow in the shoulder. Police were twice hit by arrows, and as they sought shelter and called for reinforcements, the suspect managed to escape. Investigators believe the five victims were subsequently killed.
“The murders were committed both outside and inside. Among other things, (the suspect) visited private addresses. In addition, arrows have been shot at people in public space, ”Omholt said at a press conference.
The regional investigating prosecutor said Andersen Braathen confessed to the murders after his arrest, and police said they believed he acted alone. Norway’s domestic intelligence agency said on Thursday the case appeared to be “an act of terrorism,” but warned the investigation was ongoing.
Norwegian TV station NRK said on Friday that in 2015 the agency, known by its acronym PST, obtained information about Andersen Braathen and that in 2017 it met the suspect. The following year, PST contacted Norwegian health authorities about the man and concluded that he was not motivated by religion or ideology, but was gravely mentally ill. VG newspaper said the PST then believed it could carry out a “small-scale attack with simple means in Norway”.
PST did not immediately comment.
Omholt said on Friday, investigators continued to explore possible motives or reasons for the attack, but their “strongest hypothesis for the motive is illness.”
“We are working with several hypotheses. They are weakened and strengthened during the investigation, ”said Omholt. “We will find out what happened and why.
Andersen Braathen has been transferred to a mental institution. Omholt added that “at least” two experts will observe and assess Andersen Braathen to determine if he was legally sane at the time of the attack.
The suspect’s sanity meant “it’s important to get information about the defendant’s past,” Omholt said and called on witnesses to map his activities in recent years, including on social media.
Massacres are rare in low-crime Norway, and the attack immediately recalled the country’s worst peacetime massacre a decade ago, when a right-wing national extremist killed 77 people with a bomb, gun and a gun.
“The screams were so intense and horrible that there was no doubt that something very serious was going on,” said Kurt Einar Voldseth, a Kongsberg resident, who had returned home from a run when he heard the commotion on Wednesday. “I can only describe it as a ‘cry of death’, and it stuck on my mind.”
Voldseth said he recognized the assailant, saying he lived nearby and “usually marked with his head down and headphones on”.
“I only spoke to him a few times, but I felt like he might be a problem person,” he said.
In a first hearing on Friday, a Kongsberg court ordered Andersen Braathen’s detention for four weeks, including two weeks in solitary confinement, and banned him from communicating with others.
“Reference is made to the extremely serious nature of the case, which has also aroused great media interest both nationally and internationally. If the accused is not immune from this and the other prisoners, important evidence could be lost, ”said the judgment.
He was being held on five counts of preliminary murder and at least three counts of attempted preliminary murder. The preliminary charges are a step short of formal charges, and a terrorism-related charge could be laid later if the evidence confirms it, Omholt said.
Andersen Braathen did not appear in court. His defense attorney, Fredrik Neumann, told Norwegian news agency NTB he made no comment, saying of his client: “He agreed to jail, so it really speaks to him. -same.”
Police described him on Thursday as a Muslim convert and said “there had previously been concerns about the man’s radicalization”. But neither the police nor the national intelligence services explained or explained why they had reported Andersen Braathen or what they had done with the information.
According to Norwegian media, Andersen Braathen was convicted of burglary and drug possession, and a court granted him an order not to approach his parents for six months after he allegedly threatened to kill one of them. .
Later on Friday, Jonas Gahr Stoere, the new Norwegian prime minister who took office on Thursday, laid a bouquet in the sea of flowers, candles and cards left in a central Kongsberg square.
“We know Kongsberg as a safe city. But the incredible can also happen, ”Gahr Stoere told the crowd. “We stand together when the crisis hits us. He called the attack “brutal and meaningless.”
Gahr Stoere traveled to the picturesque town about 66 kilometers (41 miles) southwest of Oslo, along with Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl.
Founded in 1624 as a mining community after silver was discovered in the area, this is where the Royal Norwegian Mint is based. For decades, the community owned a weapons factory that initially produced firearms and is now home to defense, aerospace, and tech companies.