UPDATED: A bizarre and deadly attack carried out by a man wielding a bow and arrows shocked the Norwegian city of Kongsberg Wednesday evening. Police have arrested a man believed to be a lone assailant in what was already suspected of being a terrorist attack.
Norway’s police intelligence unit PST, reinforcements from Oslo and the state police’s special forces unit (Beredskaps-troppen) were called in to assist local police. Most of the downtown area of the historic city was cordoned off and local residents were urged to remain indoors.
Police were hesitant to release detailed information about the assailant or his victims Wednesday night, but by Thursday morning they had confirmed that he’s in his mid-30s, resident in Kongsberg but a citizen of Denmark. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that his mother was Danish. He has been charged with all five murders.
The attacks are believed to have begun inside a Coop Extra grocery store in a residential and business area of Kongsberg. Police began receiving calls for help 6:14pm, as terrified shoppers, some with small children, sought shelter.
“There are several injured and also killed,” Kongsberg’s Police Chief Øyvind Aas told reporters at a press conference shortly before 9pm. Aas said he couldn’t reveal many details but confirmed that a major investigation was underway. Three air ambulances were also sent to Kongsberg.
“We have many on the job and are using all available resources,” Aas said.
He confirmed that the assailant, armed with a bow and arrows, managed to move around over a wide area of central Kongsberg after apparently leaving the grocery store. It appears he shot at random and crossed a bridge over the river that runs through the city before seeking shelter in a nearby building. There are thus several crime scenes that police need to secure and from which they need to gather evidence. There was also concern they’d find more victims in the residential area.
Details of the assailant’s arrest weren’t revealed, but Aas later said it involved “a confrontation” with police. It took around a half-hour to contain the assailant after he was first spotted. Aas confirmed that warning shots were fired to halt the suspect, but he said no one was wounded. The assailant was arrested at 6:47pm.
Police were out in force, accompanied by specially trained dogs while police helicopters whirled overhead. Justice Minister Monica Mæland was officially informed of the incident and a bomb group from Oslo was also sent to the scene. She and other members of the government are due to officially resign Thursday morning but both she and outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg planned a late-night press conference Wednesday.
Mæland’s justice ministry also ordered police all over the country to arm themselves, an indication that there was concern over a possible terrorist threat. Aas later said police continued to believe that the assailant, however, acted alone.
Aas wouldn’t immediately report how many people were shot by the assailant’s arrows, but later confirmed five were killed and two seriously wounded. Asked whether the attacks constituted terrorism, Aas replied that “time will tell, also what kind of motive there was for this. As of now, we just need to handle the situation as it is, with several injured, also killed, and we have arrested an assailant.”
The assailant was initially described simply as “a man” who was quickly taken to the police station in Drammen, west of Oslo. Staff at Drammen Hospital were put on full alert to receive both dead and injured.
One local resident told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that neighbours were in shock. Aas said police already had many witnesses, and faced a long night of registering what they saw and heard. Unni Grøndal of the Oslo Police District told NRK that “we are contributing with national assistance resources.”
Kongsberg Mayor Kari Anne Sand called the attacks “a tragedy, absolutely terrible. You don’t think something like this can happen in Kongsberg, We just have to handle it in the best possible manner.” Sand told newspaper VG that city officials were setting up a reception center at a nearby hotel for local residents and those directly affected by the attacks or feeling a need for support.