The dramatic stabbings that took place on board a bus in the mountains of southern Norway Monday evening were being called a “massacre” rather than a hijacking on Tuesday. The assailant was a reportedly rejected asylum seeker from South Sudan, and his victims were two Norwegians and a Swede.
Police confirmed that the man who went on the attack is a 31-year-old refugee from war-torn South Sudan who had been living at an asylum center in Øvre Årdal, an industrial town at the end of an eastern arm of the scenic Sognefjord. Årdal is home to one of Norsk Hydro’s aluminum plants, and newspaper Aftenposten reported that it was fire-fighters from the plant who ultimately apprehended the assailant, since they were the first emergency crew to arrive on the scene.
Victims: Two men and one young woman
The refugee’s victims were a 19-year-old Norwegian woman and a Swedish man in his 50s, who were the only other passengers on the regularly scheduled Valdresekspressen bus that had left Årdal bound for Oslo. He also mortally wounded the driver of the bus, whom police described as a Norwegian man in his 50s.
The deadly drama took place on County Highway 53 between Årdal and the popular mountain hiking and skiing area of Tyin. Ragnhild Bjørnebekk, a respected researcher at Norway’s police academy (Politihøgskolen) in Oslo, told state broadcaster NRK on Tuesday that she thinks the attack was more than a bus hijacking carried out for monetary gain. “I would call it a masssacre,” Bjørnebekk said, even though a relatively small number of persons were killed.
Police have not yet established a motive for the attack on the bus, but Bjørnebekk said research indicates such incidents often are the result of pent-up anger within someone who feels badly treated and wants to lash out at symbolic victims. She said that those carrying out such attacks often have had “negative experience” with institutions and trauma in their youth.
Bjørnebekk said various things can trigger such an attack. Website vg.no reported Tuesday morning that the 31-year-old was to be deported on Tuesday, after his application for asylum had been rejected.
Charged with triple murder
The 31-year-old man was taken to Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen for treatment of lacerations, where he’s been formally charged with the triple murder.
It’s not the first time that an asylum seeker has gone on the attack in Norway, and the Valdresekspressen bus line was itself involved in a similar attack 10 years ago, when a distraught asylum seeker from Ethiopia attacked the bus driver and killed him.
Reaction to the bloody bus attack was pouring in on Tuesday, over the long response time by the police, the need for more security on board the many bus lines around Norway, and over conditions at asylum centers that are responsible for often traumatized refugees. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on national radio Tuesday morning that her new government would take steps to address the various issues emerging in the wake of Monday night’s tragedy.