UPDATED: Two young asylum seekers were murdered and a third badly injured in a case of extreme violence that was unfolding in Trondheim on Tuesday. Police have charged a fourth young asylum seeker with the double homicide that’s left local authorities shocked and baffled.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Tuesday morning that two city employees in charge of caring for the teenaged asylum seekers had just visited the four young men where they were being housed in the the center of town.
“It seemed like everything was in order, there was peace and quiet,” Camilla Trud Nereid, director of education and youth in Trondheim, told NRK. She claimed no one detected any cause for alarm.
Had ‘fled war and conflict’
All four of the teenagers involved had arrived in Norway without their families or any legal guardians and were thus officially defined as “young single asylum seekers.” Neither police nor municipal authorities in charge of their care would initially say where they came from or whether they had all fled the same country. They later identified them, though, and reported that all four came from Afghanistan. Nereid had earlier confirmed that all were “young people who have fled war and conflict.”
The two dead were identified as 17-year-old Reza Alizada, who had come to Norway several years ago and obtained residence permission, and 19-year-old Nasratullah Hashimi, who arrived in Trondheim on August 19 but had earlier lived at an asylum center elsewhere in Norway. Alizada attended the brand new Heimdal High School in Trondheim while Hashimi, who also had residence permission in Norway, attended Melhus High School just outside Trondheim.
NRK reported that the young man charged with killing both of them has lived in Norway since 2015 and recently turned 18. He has not been granted asylum, meaning he lacks residence permission but also was allowed to attend the Heimdal High School and was in the same class as Hashimi. The fourth young man who was injured was recovering at St Olavs Hospital in Trondheim and also attends Heimdal.
Police were first called to the address where they were living at around 6pm Monday by witnesses who reported “a violent incident” very close to the city’s central square (Trondheim Torg). Police found three severely injured young men, one of whom was declared dead at the scene. The two others were rushed to nearby St Olavs Hospital where the second victim died shortly thereafter. The third person is listed in serious condition. The cause of their injuries and deaths was not immediately revealed.
Suspected assailant shot during police pursuit
Based on information from witnesses at the scene, police quickly tracked down the fourth young man who had fled the scene. He was shot in the leg while police sought to arrest him at Trondheim’s central train station, because police claim he was in the process “of injuring himself.” His condition was listed as serious but stable.
“It’s very easy to think, in the middle of the shock and sorrow over this, whether we could have done anything differently,” Nereid told NRK. “There were no indications that something like this would happen.” She claimed that the two city workers didn’t notice anything wrong at the residence and found no reason for alarm. “We don’t know what happened” just a half-hour after the city officials left, Nereid said.
The entire violent drama left officials, witnesses and acquaintances of the young men shaken and searching for answers. Nereid wouldn’t say why the two local social workers had been sent to the young men’s home address on Monday afternoon, just before the deadly rampage began. That raised questions of whether any of the young men may have been informed of a planned deportation since three of the four are now legally considered adults in Norway. The conservative state government’s policy of sending some young asylum seekers back to countries like Afghanistan when they come of age has sparked criticism and controversy in recent years. Forced returns have been carried out in cases where applications for asylum have been rejected.
Other city officials said later in the day, at a press conference in Trondheim, that young refugees living on their own are routinely visited, anywhere from once to four times a day. Annika Björnström, leader of the local city department in charge of children’s and family services, said Monday afternoon’s visit was “an entirely ordinary follow-up,” not motivated by any special reason. Trondheim officials also claimed that desite the legal age of 18 in Norway, their charges are not considered adults until they reach the age of 20.
School flag lowered
It remained unclear what provoked the young asylum seeker charged in the case. Trondheim’s brand-new Heimdal High School, where three of the four were enrolled, was due to have its official opening ceremony at 10am on Tuesday. It was quickly cancelled, and its flag lowered to half-mast.
Memorial ceremonies were being planned instead, both at the Heimdal and Melhus schools, and students planned to offer support to the other roughly 200 young asylum seekers in Trondheim. “It’s been fantastic to see their reaction,” Heimdal’s principal Elisabeth Tandstad said at Tuesday’s press conference. “They’ve been most concerned with what they can do for the others.”
Crisis teams were also being mounted to help care for other young single asylum seekers in Trondheim who had many questions and were in mourning. Several Heimdal students had already signed up to be mentors for the refugees, to help integrate them at the schools.
Attempts were also being made to contact the families of the two young men killed by their fellow asylum seeker. Local officials in Trondheim planned to seek assistance from state officials at the foreign ministry but Nereid feared it will be a difficult and lengthy process. Many asylum seekers arrive in Norway without verifiable identification papers, and their biological families are often living in hiding either in their homeland or as refugees elsewhere. “It can take time to try to find them,” Nereid said.