Heavily armed police cordoned off all streets around the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) early Wednesday and evacuated residents in an eastside neighbourhood during the night, after a man on a bus from Hønefoss to Sandvika made serious threats. They included a threat to blow up the Parliament.
The drama began around midnight when other passengers on the bus reported the threats to the Akser og Bærum Police District, where officers quickly passed them on to the Oslo Police.
“The person who made the threats appeared to be under the influence, but we took the reports seriously,” Marlow Grandalen, operations leader for the Asker og Bærum police, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Witnesses also said the man was wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a large bag, which further alarmed police, fearing he was dangerous. Police cordoned off the Parliament, set up armed police guards all around the building and launched a major manhunt.
NRK reported that the suspect making the threats, believed to be in his 30s, got off the bus in Sandvika and then got into a taxi heading for Oslo. He left the taxi in Oslo’s Lambertseter neighbourhood, a mostly residential area on the capital’s eastside.
Arrested wrong man
Police combed the Lambertseter area for hours, sending nearly a dozen patrol units and four ambulances to the neighbourhood with a police helicopter hovering overhead. They ultimately evacuated 41 local residents who were ordered by police wearing commando gear and carrying weapons to remain quiet and leave their building around 3:30am.
They arrested a man living in the building who was believed to match the description of the suspect, but he was released before 8am. “It wasn’t the right man,” a police spokesman told NRK, which also reported that no weapons or the clothing matching witnesses’ descriptions were found in his apartment. Witnesses from the bus also reportedly confirmed police had arrested the wrong man.
The manhunt continued Wednesday morning and police wouldn’t say how long the Parliament building would be cordoned off. Operations leader Lise Dunham of the Oslo Police District explained the massive response by saying that police “had information coming in that makes us go so drastically to work.” She wouldn’t elaborate, apart from to add that the man they were looking for “can be a dangerous person, because weapons are mentioned.”
Fear and uncertainty
By 8:30am, the area of downtown Oslo around the Parliament was in a state of full terror alarm although the building itself remained open for those working there. They were subject to strenuous ID checks and reports were mixed as to whether the building had been evacuated during the night. One man working for the Progress Party said he had slept in his office following a late meeting, and hadn’t been evacuated.
Jan Bøhler, a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party, told NRK that no one knew how the day would unfold and whether all meetings would be need to be cancelled. “No one can get into the building (apart from those working there),” he noted, indicating that business was definitely not proceeding as normal.
The dramatic police operation was also seriously disrupting traffic through the area Wednesday morning. Metro (T-bane) traffic under the parliamentary complex was running as usual, but all bus, trams and other vehicles had to find other routes around the streets that were blocked off.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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