Stabbings set off a terror response

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UPDATED: Norway’s emergency services responded in force late Tuesday night, after three women were stabbed in three separate locations in the southern city of Sarpsborg. Police arrested a 31-year-old man who was being held in custody at local hospital Wednesday night, believed to be mentally unstable.

Witnesses counted myriad police cars, ambulances and helicopters after the stabbings in Sarpsborg late Tuesday night. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

He’s charged with stabbing all three women, one of whom died of her wounds. She was identified on Thursday as 54-year-old Marianne Haugen, a health care worker who’s believed to have been a random victim. Haugen who was waiting in her car at a local bus station to pick up a relative when she was attacked.

Another woman was in critical condition on Wednesday but was expected to survive. The third woman suffered less serious injuries. They were attacked within 10 minutes of Haugen at two different addresses just a few blocks away.

The stabbings prompted a huge police response, with all available patrol cars sent to Sarpsborg along with a fleet of ambulances. Police didn’t know what they were facing, and feared the worst.

Downtown cordoned off
Patrol cars cordoned off the entire downtown area of Sarpsborg. “I counted 10 police cars in an intersection here, and more were driving up and down the streets,” witness Ole Martin Gilde told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Several police and rescue helicopters were also sent to the scene, along with ambulances. Police sent out warnings on social media asking all local residents to “remain indoors after several people had been stabbed,” and that one or more assailants were still on the loose.

Heavily armed police eventually arrested the man charged with all three stabbings in his own home, after one of his victims managed to identify him. He was identified as a Norwegian citizen originally from Somalia with a history of mental illness who was charged with assaulting another man in 2016. He was later acquitted.

Unclear relationships
He reportedly was acquainted with two of the women he stabbed, while he’s not believed to have had any acquaintance with Haugen. She was described as a cheerful and helpful colleague who worked for the local public health service.

The 31-year-old was charged with murder and attempted murder on Thursday and ordered held in prison.

“He is plagued by the situation and appears mentally exhausted,” the assailant’s defense attorney, Marius Otterstad, told NRK. “He has acknowledged parts of the attacks, but it’s too early to determine what’s based on reality and what’s not.” His client, he said, was unable to answer to answer the charges against him and would be undergoing psychiatric examination.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund