Police investigate new racist attack

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The new Hønefoss Church has sheltered a refugee Afghan family of four since last year. On Saturday the father and his seven-year-old son ventured outdoors for a walk in nearby woods, only to become victims of what police believe was a racist attack.

Hønefoss Church, which opened in 2017, has served as home to an Afghan family with two small children. The father and his young son were beaten to the ground during the weekend by unknown assailants in what police believe was a racist attack. PHOTO: Jan-Tore Egge

Newspaper Ringerikes Blad reported that the little boy and his father were attacked from behind by two men while walking through Hønefoss’ Schjongslunden park area. The father was hit with a blow to the head, while his son was also struck and thrown to the ground.

“They yelled things like ‘you don’t have anything to do here,” while they hit them from behind,” the pastor of the Hønefoss Church, Kristin Moen Saxegaard, told state broadcaster NRK on Monday. “The seven-year-old was very frightened. He landed on the ground and his hearing aid was destroyed. It’s very petty to attack a child.”

The two suspects are described as Norwegian men, aged 30-40. They ran off as witnesses to the attack came forward to help the man and his young son. The father suffered a concussion and both he and his son were badly shaken by the attack. “Today they’ve been visited by the boy’s teacher and some friends,” Saxegaard told NRK. “They’re recovering.”

No suspects yet
Police were quickly contacted and launched an investigation immediately. “We don’t have any suspects yet,” Erik Gunnerød, operations leader for the Southeast Police District told NRK. “We’re encouraging the public who may have seen anything suspicious in the area to contact us.”

The attack occurred suddenly and Gunnerød said police suspect it was racially motivated. That’s based on what the assailants, who spoke Norwegian, said. “The victims don’t fully understand Norwegian, and we need an interpreter in order to carry out full questioning,” Gunnerød said. “There are many details around the attack that remain unclear.”

He said they had been able to establish that the two assailants were unknown to the father. The Afghan family has received temporary residence permission in Norway but continues to live at the church.

‘Very sad’
“This is very sad,” Marie Lyngseth, the deacon for all churches in Høneføss, told NRK. “This is a family whom many of us here in Hønefoss know well, and it’s fine to have them around us. They are an important part of the local community.”

“It must be safe to live here, and we think it’s simply terrible that something like this would happen in Hønefoss,” Saxegaard said. She praised local police for taking the attack seriously. It comes after a string of attacks on ethnic minorities, most recently when a white supremacist young man murdered his half-sister who’d been adopted from China because of her Asian heritage. He then opened fire inside a mosque in Bærum but no one else was killed.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund