Revealed: Norway bow-and-arrow 'terror' suspect was Muslim convert flagged to police after chilling video

·6 min read
Espen Andersen Bråthen
Espen Andersen Bråthen

The alleged bow and arrow terrorist who killed five people in Norway has been identified as Muslim convert Espen Andersen Bråthen.

The 37-year-old was arrested on Wednesday in the town of Kongsberg, some 42 miles from Oslo, following a rampage which took place in different locations in the town.

In a video on his Facebook, which Norwegian media said was flagged to police in 2017, Bråthen said in English: "Hello. I'm a messenger. I come with a warning. Is this really what you want? And for all who want to make up for themselves, so it's time. Bear witness that I am a Muslim."

Norway's intelligence service deemed the attack an "act of terror". Police have said suspect was a “convert to Islam” who had been “radicalised”. Bråthen reportedly attended an Islamic centre in Kongsberg two years ago.

Police said they had previously been in contact with him and there had “been worries of the man having been radicalised”. It took them 34 minutes to capture the man, who by then had killed five people and injured two.

Bråthen's warning video was flagged to police by a concerned acquaintance, Aftenposten, Norway's largest newspaper said.

Neighbours of the alleged killer also told the paper they witnessed him training with weapons in his garden.

Described as engaging in martial arts in a "brutal fighting style" with "a club or baton", his activities caught the attention of the police who were said to have been pictured in his garden with helmets on one occasion.

His rampage began on Wednesday night. Police were called at 6.15pm and arrested the suspect about 30 minutes later.

"Witnesses saw lifeless people, heard intense howls and screams and saw people running for their lives in the streets," Police chief Ole B. Saeverud told a news conference on Thursday. Police said officers responding to the incident were also shot at with arrows.

A police technician enters a building in the town center following the deadly attack in Kongsberg - REUTERS
A police technician enters a building in the town center following the deadly attack in Kongsberg - REUTERS
Police officers investigate after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using a bow and arrows to carry out attacks - REUTERS
Police officers investigate after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using a bow and arrows to carry out attacks - REUTERS

The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70, he added. Two have been hospitalised and are in intensive care. They include an off-duty police officer who was inside a supermarket and their condition was not immediately known.

One eyewitness, who was in the centre of town at the time of the attack, said the Kongsberg's residents are upset, devastated, and panicked.

"I have never seen so many police, ambulances, and vehicles in my life. There were just blue lights everywhere. Everyone is in shock and upset.

"I mean an untrained lone man equipped with knife, arrow, and bow openly roamed in our streets for more than 30 minutes— headed to a grocery store in the beginning and attacked people there. And then made his way to a post office. Everywhere where he saw people gathering."

Police work near a site after a man killed some people in Kongsberg, Norway - NTB
Police work near a site after a man killed some people in Kongsberg, Norway - NTB

Karin Elise Edvartsen, a local who knew one of the victims, said the "worst part" of the attack was "all the hate against religion and race that comes with it".

"If we are from here or there, we are one community," she said. "My neighbours are both Muslims and Christians, and I know they would not hurt a fly. Sadly, people start to suspect others. It hurts me. But I refuse to let the hate win."

The suspect is being held on preliminary charges, which is a step short of formal charges. Police believe he acted alone.

Prime Minister-designate Jonas Gahr Stoere, who is expected to take office later Thursday, called the attack "horrific."

"This is unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock ," Gahr Stoere told Norwegian broadcaster NRK on Thursday.

Kari Anne, the town mayor, said: "This is a gruesome incident, there is nothing else to say. Now we must try to take care of the inhabitants as best we can."

Harald Kristiansen, a Coop spokesperson, told NRK there had been "a serious incident in our store" but none of its employees had been injured.

"We are providing assistance to our colleagues and helping police with their investigation," he said.

The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70 - UNPIXS
The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70 - UNPIXS

Following the attacks, the police directorate said it had immediately ordered officers nationwide to carry firearms. Norwegian police are normally unarmed, but officers have access to guns and rifles when needed.

"This is an extra precaution. The police have no indication so far that there is a change in the national threat level," the directorate said.

"We didn't receive any reports of concern related to the detained person in 2021. However, there have been reports against him in the past, and police had followed them up," Ole Bredrup Sæverud, chief of police in the South-Eastern district said.

The Norwegian national broadcaster NRK reported that the accused had been convicted of burglary and purchased small quantities of hashish in 2012.

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten reported, the accused man was banned from visiting his parents after misbehaving and seriously threatening them.

According to police, a confrontation between officers and the perpetrator occurred before he was arrested. No police officers involved in the operation received any injuries during the confrontation.

Police fired warning shots before rounding him up. "Probably all these five people, killed before the police had arrived at the scene."

Norway has traditionally been a peaceful nation, but has suffered far-right attacks in recent years. Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik carried out twin attacks that killed 77 people in 2011.

Breivik first set off a bomb in Oslo next to the building that housed the office of the prime minister, before going on a shooting spree at a summer camp for left-wing youths on the island of Utoya.

Police chief Ole B. Saeverud said the man was known to police - REUTERS
Police chief Ole B. Saeverud said the man was known to police - REUTERS

In August 2019, self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Philip Manshaus opened fire in a mosque on the outskirts of Oslo before being overpowered by worshippers, with no one being seriously injured.

Several planned jihadist attacks have also been foiled by security services.

However, Norway has one of the world’s lowest crime rates. Last year Norwegian police used or threatened to use weapons only 28 times, according to the Justice Ministry.

Earlier this year Professor Nils Christie, a criminology expert at the University of Oslo, said: "Norway is at the bottom of the list of violent crimes per capita. Our biggest crime problem is the unfounded anxiety people feel about it."

The risk of being murdered is nine times higher in the United States than it is in Norway.

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