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Monday, July 22, 2024

Police armed after Steinkjer attack

UPDATED: Norwegian police were ordered to carry weapons nationwide during the Easter holiday weekend, after a man with a record of suspected terrorism ran down three people with his vehicle in Steinkjer. One person was killed and the two others injured, as police also faced other acts of murder and violence elsewhere around the country.

Norwegian police were told to arm themselves during a busy Easter holiday weekend that included not just a fatal vehicular attack on pedestrians in Steinkjer but also other acts of violence around the country. PHOTO: Politiets fellesforbund

The 30-year-old Norwegian man now in custody after the Steinkjer attack has a long record of prior convictions and was also charged with trying to derail a train in 2016. He has also made threats containing references to the jailed right-wing extremist who gunned down 69 people and bombed Norway’s government headquarters in 2011.

Police now suspect he intentionally drove his vehicle up on the sidewalk of a street in downtown Steinkjer in Trøndelag late Saturday night. He hit three pedestrians, one of whom later died, before driving off and ending up in a ditch just outside of town. He was quickly apprehended and initially charged with both reckless driving and homicide on Sunday.

“This is an extremely serious incident with a tragic result,” said Åsta Elden of the Trøndelag Police District. As the police investigation into it began immediately, State Police Director Benedicte Bjørnland ordered police to arm themselves nationwide. It was initially unclear why, but then came reports that the 30-year-old suspect in Steinkjer has earlier been reported to police intelligence agency PST, which is in charge of trying to control domestic terrorism.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reports that the suspect has been charged with various violent incidents in recent years and was convicted of railroad sabotage near Steinkjer. NRK cited court documents from a case seven years ago, after he had placed a manhole cover, various metal scrap and a large rock on local railroad tracks. He was acquitted of charges that he tried to set off a serious train accident, on the grounds he hadn’t foreseen the consequences of his acts, but convicted of sabotage and damage to the tracks. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

NRK reported that he also committed various crimes in 2017, including making online threats to kill so many people that he would make the right-wing terrorist and mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik “look like a little boy by comparison.” Court records claim he issued threats “with macabre, terror-like acts, and has created a sinister sense of evil.” He was described as being “unstable and unpredictable, especially when he drinks,” with several people testifying that “they’re unsure what he can do when he’s drunk.” He has several convictions for drunk driving and for assaulting a woman, a case worker at state welfare agency NAV and other public servants. His police record stretches back 12 years and includes arson and carrying an axe in a public place.

Motive ‘unknown’
Bjørnland, meanwhile, ordered the national call to arms on Sunday because the motive for his vehicular attack on pedestrians in Steinkjer was “unknown and the situation was unclear.” It also emerged that PST has been kept informed of the suspect’s acts on a routine basis. The order was later retracted after the terror threat subsided. It remained unclear why the suspect hadn’t been held in protective custody given all his offenses over the years.

Justice Ministrer Emilie Enger Mehl, in charge of the police, the courts and preparedness in Norway, also called the Steinkjer attack “tragic” and backed the national call to arms. “My thoughts go to the family of the person killed, the injured and all those affected after the tragic incident in Steinkjer,” she told NRK.

Local police, meanwhile, claimed there was no longer need for the public to feel unsafe “because he has been arrested.” He was also said to have been “very drunk” after being found in his vehicle in the ditch, so drunk that he was taken to a local hospital where he was under constant guard. His defense attorney claimed on Monday that he was “shocked” to hear the charges against him now, and that he’d killed someone. His victim was later identitied as 21-year-old Sigve Bremset, who’d been on leave from military service during the Easter holidays.

He has admitted to the charges, according to his defense attorney, but was resisting the state prosecutor’s request that he be kept in custody while the police investigation continues. She claimed he was sorry and didn’t remember anything about his late-night attack. He ended up being ordered held by a local court on Monday in isolation for at least two weeks.

There were several other incidents of violence of murder in Norway during the long Easter holiday weekend. A man in Kristiansand was charged with fatally injuring another man at Mosby late Saturday night, while a 31-year-old woman was found murdered in her home in Lørenskog, northeast of Oslo, on Thursday after she failed to show up for work on Wednesday. Her male partner has been charged with her death.

Police in Rogaland also confirmed on Sunday that bones found on a beach at Grødalandstangen are human remains that will now be analyzed. In Aurskog, northeast of Oslo, police fired several shots at a car driven by a robbery suspect who threatened to run down another police officer. The occupants of the car were caught stealing copper from a transformer station at Vikodden in Aurskog eary Monday morning, and then colliding with both a police car and trying to run down a police officer during their getaway. Police were calling for tips from the public.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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