The stabbing of a woman inside a grocery store in downtown Oslo on Thursday is being investigated as a terrorist attack. Norway’s police intelligence agency PST has taken charge of the investigation.
The stabbing occurred in the middle of the day on Thursday, inside a Kiwi grocery store on Møllergata. The store is located on the ground floor of a modern residential building and the woman was standing in line to pay for her items.
She was suddenly stabbed in the back in what police now think was a random attack. “All signs are that she was a random victim,” Rune Ullsand, operations leader for the Oslo Police District, told news bureau NTB shortly after the attack.
Police received an emergency call about the stabbing and several patrol cars responded. The woman was rushed to Ullevål University Hospital where her condition was listed as critical but stable.
A man in his early 20s was arrested shortly after the attack in what was initially described as a robbery attempt. The suspect reportedly attacked the Kiwi store’s cashier but then chose to run away. State broadcaster NRK reported that he was arrested by Oslo police not far from the scene of the stabbing, and was still in possession of the knife.
‘Wanted to kill several people’
NRK reported Friday afternoon that PST has taken over the investigation, indicating that terrorism is involved or suspected. That was confirmed by Benedicte Bjørnland, the head of PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) who is soon to take over as director of Norway’s statewide police.
Bjørnland told reporters at a hastily convened press briefing at PST’s headquarters that the young man has been charged under Norway’s terror law. She said it was too early in the investigation to tie him to any terrorist organizations but he had called the stabbing a terrorist attack himself while being questioned by Oslo police.
She described him as 20-year-old Russian citizen from Barsjkortostan. She said he was not from the breakaway Islamic republic of Chechenya, but he told police “that he has Islam as his religion.”
Bjørnland said the youg man told police Thursday evening that he “wanted to kill several people, and that he characterized the stabbing as a terrorist attack.”
Arrived same day ‘via Sweden’
PST has earlier issued terror warnings and predicted in its latest evaluation of the terror threat in Norway that an attack would likely follow the same pattern as recent attacks in Europe: Islamic extremists acting alone and using either knives, other weapons or vehicles. Likely venues include areas where many civilians are assembled and where there are few security precautions.
Bjørnland said he had just arrived in Norway on Thursday, “via Sweden.” She said she had no information about the circumstances of his stay in Sweden, stressing that the investigation into the attack and the attacker himself were in an early phase.
He’s charged under the paragraph in Norway’s relatively new terror law that covers attacks and a desire to spread fear.
The attack is the first one of its kind in Norway. The victim remained in critical condition on Friday.