Solberg shaken as bus tragedy unfolds

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg was promising a full review of “what went wrong” in what she called the “deeply tragic” attack on a regularly scheduled bus route over the mountains of Norway Monday evening. As details continued to emerge, Solberg said her government would probe everything from slow police response time to what caused a 31-year-old rejected refugee to fatally stab two fellow passengers and the bus driver.

Erna Solberg thinks she can do just as good a job, also with Progress Party leader Siv Jensen as finance minister in a new non-socialist government coalition. Jensen wants to spend far more of Norway's oil revenues than Stoltenberg's government has. PHOTO: TV2 screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Erna Solberg called Monday’s attack by an asylum seeker “deeply tragic” but said it was “too early” to draw any conclusions. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“This incident is deeply tragic, it must be safe to travel in Norway,” Solberg told state broadcaster NRK Tuesday morning. “Now we will help those closest to the victims, the local community and the employees of the bus company in the manner they deserve.”

Solberg said it was “too early to draw any conclusions” about the reasons for the attack and the slow emergency response to it. “We must use some time to see what went wrong in this connection,” Solberg said. “But there’s one thing this government is clear about: Police staffing must increase.”

Arrived in Norway last spring
Immigration authorities confirmed on Tuesday that the 31-year-old man from South Sudan who stabbed to death two fellow passengers on a Valdresekspressen bus and its driver arrived in Norway in April. He had first sought asylum in Spain and then traveled on to Norway, where his application for asylum was rejected in June.

Ingeborg Grimsmo of immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) told NRK that the authorities ordered he be sent back to Spain, his first port of entry in Europe. Nearly five months later, the man who’d been staying at an asylum center in Øvre Årdal since August 26 was still in the Sogne region. Grimsmo said she didn’t know exactly when he was to be sent out of the country, since that’s in the hands of the police and linked to their capacity to arrange deportations.

Website vg.no reported that he was set to be flown unescorted to Oslo on Tuesday and then on to Spain. Instead, he boarded the bus the night before and unleashed his attack. Police received their first alarm of what initially sounded like a traffic accident involving the bus shortly after 5:30pm, and it was handled by the station in Leirdal. Police headed out immediately, according to local officials, but opted to drive via the main E16 highway over the mountains instead of a shorter route along the fjord. They reportedly feared that repair work in a tunnel on the fjord work would cause delays.

‘Blood everywhere’
It thus took police well over an hour to arrive at the scene, by which time the bus driver and two passengers were dead. The assailant who initially forced the bus to stop had stabbed to death the bus driver, a 19-year-old Norwegian woman and a Swedish man in his 50s during his roughly hour-long attack. He was eventually apprehended by firefighters called to the scene from Årdal, who arrived at the scene before police.

Other motorists who’d stopped to help after seeing the bus stopped by the side of the mountain road were met by a gruesome scene, with one witness telling NRK there “was blood everywhere” and the body of one of the victims was lying on the steps leading into the bus. The 31-year-old assailant threatened them as well, wielding his knife and behaving in what they called a “desperate” manner. They then were forced to back off, until police arrived.

No earlier reports of trouble
Grimsmo of UDI said she’d had no reports that the assailant had been in trouble before, nor could she offer any information about his mental health. He initially had been placed in an asylum center in Oslo before being transferred to Årdal last summer. “Everyone gets an offer of a place to stay for as long as they are in Norway,” she told NRK.

Warnings have long circulated over the mental health of traumatized refugees who arrive in Norway and often are placed in remote locations around the country. Solberg’s government, like the left-center government before it, will be challenged to account for how refugees are treated and what precautions are taken to ensure their safety and that of those around them. Asked whether the 31-year-old from South Sudan had undergone any sort of examinations regarding his mental state, Grimsmo said she had no overview and wouldn’t be able to share such details if she had them.

Asked how immigration authorities follow up on the cases of asylum seekers, Grimsmo said it was “always a question of capacity” and “impossible to foresee this type of thing. We do our best within the framework we have. There will always be a question of whether we could have done more.”

Black armbands
Tor Brekke, who works with refugees and asylum centers housing them, told NRK that there were no records of any trouble with the man from South Sudan and no sign that he was “aggressive or mentally unbalanced.” He was said to have taken part in obligatory programs for refugees and raised no concerns among staff at the center. He said staff are trained to be observant and report any signs of health problems.

The asylum center in Årdal was set up just last summer and arranges housing for 150 refugees in a decentralized system, placing them in various residences around the town instead of in an institution. Grimsmo said UDI would be offering more support for the staff in Årdal because the bus attack “is a strong and uncomfortable experience for them.”

Bus drivers all over Norway were urged to wear black armbands on Tuesday, to honor their slain colleague, while debate over rose over how to improve security on board the bus lines that are a major means of transport in Norway. The head of  employers’ organization NHO Transport was already organizing a meeting among various bus operators to discuss safety issues.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • Observer2796

    Erna should leave this to her spokes flack or her minister of Justice. She is way too senior to be commenting on an incident. Shows how nervous everyone is. What she should really do is quietly and substantially expand law enforcement. Can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs yes? Where are the high profile Somali or Ethiopian cops? Having cops from these peoples own country would make them think twice about committing a crime.

    • inquisitor

      I have years of training in multiple disciplines of martial arts and have taken some courses in realistic self-defense.
      The first and best defense against a knife wielding attacker should you be unarmed is to run away as quickly as possible and not to engage.
      As the real-life chances of disarming and subduing a motivated, even unskilled, knife wielding attacker without getting severely injured or killed are quite low.

      But on a bus or in a small space you are cornered and limited with options. Having a weapon of your own does increase your odds dramatically. A small steel telescopic baton could make all the difference and I would prefer this actually over having a knife of my own as the reach of the baton and hand-to-hand techniques used together would give me a better chance at disarming and subduing.than a small-bladed knife. Of course a very small and discrete .308 with a 7 round magazine would be preferred.

      If you have a good thick leather jacket covering your wrists and arms then the absence of a weapon and having training in disarming a knife, one could potentially get the upper hand…but it is risky…and out in the boonies one could bleed out before help arrived…waiting an hour.

      Thing is that most of these weapons are illegal in Norway. So you can perhaps throw some på legg in his eye or a cup of hot coffee from your thermos and then hope to wrestle the knife from him.
      Or perhaps just curl up on a ball on the floor and hope he…goes away.

      • Observer2796

        Sad that you feel so threatened that its okay to carry some sort of weapon. Be careful though. You might end up in prison defending yourself. This chap would be out of luck if someone in the bus had pepper spray.

        • inquisitor

          It most certainly is okay to carry a weapon for justifiable self-defense no matter what an individual’s inner motivator may be.

          I would firmly state my motivation for carrying a weapon for self-defense does not come from my feeling threatened.
          But it does come from experience that, in life, threats exist and bad things do happen…although rarely.
          I guess how likely or real that potential may be for you depends on what and how much you have seen in this life.

          Too bad one of these individuals was not prepared for such a rare event, or at least, felt “threatened” enough to perhaps motivate them to have a tool on-hand to increase their odds of survival.

          There was a multiple stabbing on a bus by an immigrant attacker several years back just 20 minutes from where I live now. I think at least seven were injured. Kitchen knives are the most common weapon used in knife attacks which can be obtained just about anywhere by anyone.

          I would surely take a sentence in a Norwegian prison over the fate of one of these people on the bus.
          I would choose life for the sake of my wife, children and family even if that meant being in jail or deported. How my being maimed or dead would be a better choice just does not compute.

          And not in every instance when a bad thing happens is it even possible or wise to use the very weapon you possess for that particular situation.
          These are rare, atypical, yet unexpected situations.

          A man carrying a ten inch chef’s knife who I just watched kill two people now walking toward me while I sit at the back of the bus…would certainly make me feel threatened. I would simply be better outfitted with a specific tool to assist me with that threat that has presented itself.

          Take, for example, the shooting on Utøya.
          Just one armed individual could have saved many.
          Out of all those people, not one of them did or could do anything but hide until it was their turn. Even the police bungled getting their in a timely manner and in this instance on the bus it took an hour for help to arrive.
          All the more suggesting the dire need to make your own preparations to save yourself and even others.

          What is truly sad is that three people on a bus died and not one of them had the ability or the means by which to negate their attacker, save themselves and possibly the lives of the other two.

          It is quite probable, with my training, that I would have had a fighting chance of subduing this man without suffering major damage just with hand-to-hand combat
          .
          But it would be stupid not to use a pen or pencil as an improvised weapon and increase those odds.
          Just as it would be stupid not to prepare for the rarity that a tool specifically made for this type event just happen to be on your person and available right in your backpack.

          Have you ever been physically assaulted at random by a stranger while walking down the street and beaten so bad you had to spend a week in the hospital?

          Have you ever been robbed at knifepoint…twice?

          Have you ever been in a place that was being robbed and during that robbery you had four people point four .45 auto handguns at your face all at the same time?

          Have you ever participated in two years worth of weekends doing ride-alongs with a county Sheriff on official calls to real crime scenes to determine if you wished to pursue a career in law enforcement and witness first hand true life “threatening” events manifest horrid results?

          And I find it quite confusing to understand your argument after you condemn my advocating carrying some form of weapon, that you then suggest pepper spray as something that could be effective.
          Guess what? Pepper spray is a weapon, one of the very weapons I am advocating.
          And, if I am correct, it is illegal to possess it in Norway. Sorry am I missing something with your contradictory assertions?

          • Peter Hoe

            Again & again I read the age old line in Norway…time.
            The new PM was quoted as saying ” we must use some time to see what went wrong…”.
            How much time does she need? A day, month or year?
            Why not commit to a 24 hour deadline to deliver an investigation that is owed to the nation?
            Norway must wake up. Time is not in your hands!

            Facts:
            -Police took a long time to arrive at the scene of the crime.
            -5 months and a deportee is still in the country? Why the delay? Why not make it 7 days? Surely that’s not against any human rights act?
            -Ingeborg Grimsmo of the UDI “didn’t know exactly when he is to be deported”. She doesn’t know? Woo does?

            Question:
            Why is there a question on his mental health? He is an asylum seeker who was refused status. The mental health of a deportee should not be anyone’s concern.

            All this spells one thing clearly – INCOMPETENCE!!!

            Peter Hoe
            Kuala Lumpur
            Malaysia

          • Observer2796

            A bit long to respond to point by point but lets just say I get where you’re coming from. Why I said that it’s sad that you feel so threatened is that Norway prides itself of having a very low crime rate and there are practically no serious crimes committed, especially in rural ares.

            22/7 changed a lot. As I said in an earlier post Norway lost it’s innocence that day. Re the crimes where you were a victim or witness I should say no. Never was in similar situations. The only thing that happened to me is that 18 years ago I was badly beaten and robbed by a group of 4 people that wanted my gold chain, wallet and watch. The assault happened so fast and was so violent that I was unconscious and when I cam to my GF at the time was going hysterical thinking I was dead.

            Since then I largely managed to avoid being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

            Now getting back to what you thought was contradictory i.e the mace/pepper spray, It is that I don’t find it as much a weapon as being a highly effective defense against a random, impulsive or opportunistic assailant. I can get that stuff and would surely give it to my daughter when she gets older. It’s not police grade but will stun the attacker and offer a way out.

            We don’t know who got stabbed first but lets just say there must have been consternation in his bus just before he himself got stabbed which would give him time grab his defense and deal with the threat. The bus was parked so I imagine he saw what happened, stopped the bus and got attacked himself. Thinking about the turn of events, I believe this attacker wasn’t the brightest bulb on the strand because killing the driver means he had nowhere to go.

            Lets look at this in another way; why not give bus drivers a legal exempt and training to use something like that spray to at least be able to ward off a threat to him and his passengers? Norwegian law not allowing it? Then give them a silent alarm connected to a network of a mobile police brigade on stand by. It’s not the first time a knife attack like this happens so I it find should be logical policy. I mean the man is responsible for the well being of his passengers and as such feel he is getting support from law enforcement. After all they can’t be everywhere on time.

            At least we agree that something needs to be done to restore these guys’ confidence… now.

            • inquisitor

              I understand your response.

              And because I am in Norway, rather than a large US suburb, I don’t pack a .45 auto or a six inch fixed-blade knife on my person any longer. I hope that speaks to the lower incidence in Norway. But that is also quite proportional to a low and spread out population.
              I do choose not to leave it up to someone else, like a 53 year old bus driver, to protect me when bad things go down.

              In other words…no one is going to get a piece or the best of me or take what I got…without paying for it…severely.

  • No_offence_intended

    You can’t help but get angry reading this article.

    Grimsmo said UDI would be offering more support for the staff in Årdal because the bus attack “is a strong and uncomfortable experience for them.”

    How about some support to the poor families who have again been failed by Norway’s ineptitude, yet again.

    The attiude of ‘ ah, well it’s ok, you did your best, don’t worry’ runs deep in Norway, starting from infancy.

    How could you ever think that someone (especially someone coming from an impoverished war zone, desperate never to return) would quite willfully make his way to the local police station so he could be deported. You must always prepare for the worst possible scenario.

    How about centralized detention centers (close proximity to the main airport would work) where refugees, asylum seekers be detained until their application is processed.

    • Observer2796

      “How about centralized detention centers (close proximity to the main airport would work) where refugees, asylum seekers be detained until their application is processed.”

      Would definitely send a stark message to future fortune seekers. However never forget that true asylum seekers are well educated and intellectual people running from whatever dictator, regime or warlord threatening their life. They’d rather not be in Europe.

      • Robert Cumming

        How about a detention centre on a remote and well cut off island, Svalbad springs to mind. It shouldn’t be easy for these people they should be kept in isolation until they are either allowed in or rejected.

        • Observer2796

          Can’t do that. Human rights and all. It’s also impractical to have them so far inland. The only solution I see is to send a signal that Norway no longer is the gullible paradise. Three strikes and you’re out. No exceptions.

          Hanging out all day at the mosque instead of developing yourself? We start being in your face everyday. Kids slowly being shrouded and radicalized? Lets have a chat about you being sent back to whatever hellhole you came from. Your numerous kids show no respect for society? We cut your benefit. See where I’m going with this? Punitive measures for every excess they allow.

          • Robert Cumming

            Why can’t you do that, Australia does, they stick em in a detention centre in the middle of the desert if they make it to Australia, if they try and escape they’ll likely die of dehydration before they make it to civilisation, or ship them off to Naru if they are caught on the high seas before landing. Why should Norway be nice, a lot of the time these people are lying, I’d also advocated forced tempoary sterilisation of the women so no anchor babies can be born.

  • James Robertson

    So basically then, instead of being deported he kills a few people, safe in the knowledge that he’ll be imprisoned here for the next 20 years. Given the easy life prisoners have in Norway he’s much better off now than he would have been back in Spain or where ever he ended up.

    • Adam

      Exactly, they should already be discussing ways he could be made to serve out his sentence in South Sudan.

      Just like the lying anchor-baby asylum seekers, allowing him to serve his sentence out in Norway would create a perverse incentive for other asylum rejects, desperate to stay in Norway at any cost.