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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Man attacked Royal Palace in Oslo

UPDATED: Oslo police have arrested a man in his 50s from Belarus after he hurled what police called “fire bombs” at Norway’s Royal Palace on Monday afternoon. His motive was initially unclear, and he failed to do much damage.

Norway’s Royal Palace in Oslo has numerous doors in addition to its main entrance located under the pillars in this photo. The door attacked was in the rear of the palace. The palace grounds are always open to the public, but security around them has been greatly enhanced in recent years, to keep unauthorized vehicles away from the building. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no

“The man had several more bottles containing liquid when he was seized,” Anders Rønning, operations leader for the Oslo Police, told state broadcaster NRK. “These will now be examined by the police bomb group.”

The man, who approached the palace in an electric wheelchair, had reportedly told a passerby that he had a bomb with him, and the passerby alerted the police. Shortly thereafter the assailant threw what have also been called Molotov cocktails at a door on the rear side of the palace. They set off flames and “lots of smoke,” according to tourists from Kristiansand who were at the palace to watch its early afternoon changing of the guards, which was quickly postponed.

“Police were in the area, so when he (the assailant) threw the second fire bomb, we were there to arrest him immediately,” said Rønning. A fire set off by the attack was also quickly extinguished.

The man’s motives remained unclear late Monday afternoon, nor could police say anything about the background for the attack or whether the assailant acted alone. His court-appointed defense attorney, however, later told reporters that he was trying to make a statement about the lack of accessibility for wheelchair users, and attacked the palace “out of pure desperation.” TV2 reported there was some speculation over whether the defendant, age 57, confused the palace with the Parliament building in Oslo.

NRK had earlier reported that he had been identified as a citizen of Belarus and that he’s been sought by police in the Netherlands, but the background for the Dutch arrest warrant wasn’t clear either. Norwegian police delined to specify the nature of his earlier crimes, but TV2 reported he had been expelled from the EU along with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein for 10 years.

King Harald and Queen Sonja, who live on the top floor of the palace, usually leave the palace during the summer, when it’s opened to the public for tours. Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit live with their family at Skaugum, west of Oslo. Palace officials confirmed late Monday that one member of the royal family was in the palace at the time of the attack but that person was not identified.

The palace grounds are open to the public, even moreso in the summer when the gardens on the palace’s west side also open. That’s where the royal family’s usual entrance door is located, while members of the government and other visitors usually enter through the center of the palace. The attacker’s target was a door in the opposite side of the building from the mid-1800s, in an area where the king’s royal guards usually aren’t stationed.

Questions have arisen over why the police, and not the King’s Guards, apprehended the assailant and took charge over the situation. A military spokesman said that’s standard practice when a member of the public had summoned police. and police were already in the area.

“At the same time the guards were alerted to the incident, police had already arrived on the scene and taken control over the assailant,” prosecutor Jenny Marie Solgaard told NRK. “It wasn’t necessary for the guards to step in.” The guards did help cordon off the area and keep other members of the public away from the scene of the crime.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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