UPDATED: A woman working at a local NAV social welfare office in Oslo was stabbed early Monday by one of her clients, setting off an armed police operation to apprehend her assailant in the residential area where the attack occurred. The attack also raised new concerns over security at welfare offices that often serve troubled users.
One resident described the situation in the Ammerud neighbourhood on Oslo’s east side as “quite dramatic,” telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that at least four armed police officers ran after the woman’s assailant before apprehending him. He was said to be 26 years old and was in police custody around 10 minutes after his attack.
Stabbed twice in the back
Police said his victim, a woman in her 30s, was rushed to Ullevål University Hospital where she was undergoing emergency surgery Monday morning. She was stabbed twice in the back, and her condition was listed as critical.
The attack occurred around 8:30am at the NAV Grorud office at Ammerudveien 20. The welfare worker was stabbed inside her office, according to Ingunn Bratseth of the Oslo Police District.
The office was immediately closed and would remain closed at least through the rest of the day, according to a statement from NAV officials.
Police confirmed that the man was a welfare recipient through NAV, which handles all forms of social welfare in Norway such as pension and sick leave payments and unemployment benefits. He is a Norwegian citizen with a criminal record whom police dogs were able to track to his home in Ammerud, where police also recovered the knife used in his attack. He was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that he had refused to respond to police questioning about the attack.
Tough security issues
Security of NAV officials has been a major concern in recent years following other attacks on NAV staff. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of attacks just since two years ago, NRK reported, and Labour Minister Anniken Huitfeldt requested an evaluation of security routines from NAV.
“We need to go through our routines and see what we can do better,” Huitfeldt told NRK. She said NAV officials do “a super job” but often find themselves in the middle of clients’ conflicts and problems.
NAV officials said they wanted to retain “open, light offices” while also ensuring clients’ rights to privacy and employee safety. An employees’ representative said staff was shaken by the attack but also wanted to maintain direct contact with their clients, meaning “there will never be 100 percent security.”