Police charge security guard for setting off bomb scare at the University of Oslo

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UPDATED: Wednesday’s major bomb drama at the University of Oslo took an unexpected turn on Thursday, when police revealed that the security guard who set it into motion had in fact mounted an elaborate hoax. Police announced that the security guard has now confessed to shooting himself and placing an object near the university’s physics building that was meant to trick police into thinking it was a bomb.

The bizarre case continued to unfold Thursday when police held a press conference to announce that they’d charged the guard, who worked for the security firm Nokas, with making false statements. He had initially called police around 3am Wednesday, claiming he’d been shot by two men he’d encountered while on patrol at the University of Oslo campus. He gave descriptions of his alleged assailants and police launched a major search to find them.

Grabbed attention and sympathy
In the process they found the “suspicious object” that prompted them to call in the bomb squad and cordon off large areas of the university campus. The situation became more dramatic when they also closed off the entrance to the local metro station after finding what was thought to be the jacket of one of the allegedly fleeing suspects.

Norway’s police intelligence unit PST later claimed there were no links to any concrete terror threat against the university, while the security guard, who’d been taken to hospital, received much attention from police and sympathy from colleagues. The search continued, meanwhile, for the two men whom the guard claimed had fired at him, and possibly placed a bomb. Now police say it was all a bluff and Nokas officials said Thursday morning that the guard has been suspended.

The security guard, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), had been involved in two earlier incidents while on the job that made it seem he had, as one colleague put it, “maximum bad luck.” In 2013 he claimed to have been stabbed on the job and in November of last year he claimed to have been attacked, also while on patrol at the university, by assailants with a so-called “stun gun” who also tried to strangle him. That led to all Nokas security guards being ordered to wear bullet-proof gear while on patrol.

Statements ‘not correct’
His claim in the early morning hours of Wednesday that he’d been shot at “four or five times” were not correct, though, announced Grete Lien Metlid of the Oslo Police District Thursday morning. She told reporters that after undergoing police questioning, and being confronted with suspicions that it was all a hoax, he had changed his initial statements.

“He has tied himself to the weapon and the bomb-like object,” Metlid said. “Police now believe that the bomb scare and the shooting are not connected to two other suspects but to the guard. He has shot himself and placed the false bomb. The weapon has been retrieved and taken in as evidence.”

It was a stunning turn of events, as reporters had continued to inquire about the status of the search for the two alleged assailants. There were none, and the security guard himself now faces prosecution.

‘Personal tragedy’
NRK reported Thursday that Metlid wouldn’t comment on the two earlier incidents in which the guard had claimed to have been attacked while on duty. She stressed that the charges against him now are only tied to his claims on Wednesday, which set off a massive police operation and raised fears of terrorism. Nor would Metlid say whether he had actually made the bomb-like object that was found to contain no explosives.

The guard’s employer and colleagues at Nokas, meanwhile, seemed as stunned as anyone. “If this is all correct, it’s a huge personal tragedy for one of our employees,” Nokas director Heine Wang told NRK. The security firm’s communications director, Ådne Mauritzen, confirmed the guard had been suspended “but we are also very concerned and want to care of him.” The company already had said they were offering him psychological help to deal with the alleged shooting when they all still thought it was real.

Nokas employs more than 1,000 security guards in Oslo but newspaper Aftenposten reported that the man now charged, described as a long-term employee, was the only one claiming to have been involved in allegedly life-threatening attacks. “This is a guard who has worked for us for several years,” Mauritzen had told Aftenposten before he was charged. “He works lots of night shifts.” He told NRK Thursday that the company had not had any suspicions about him earlier, instead attributing the three alleged attacks on him to “extremely unfortunate circumstances.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund