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Bow and Arrow Attack in Norway Leaves 5 Dead

After a bow-and-arrow attack in Kongsberg, Norway, left five people dead and three others injured, authorities have a suspect in custody. 

Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, was charged on Thursday, although the charges against him will not be made public until Friday when he will appear before a judge. It is believed the attacker was working alone. According to the suspect’s lawyer, Bråthen is cooperating, and his mental health is being evaluated. 

The attack occurred Wednesday evening, starting off at a Coop Extra supermarket in Kongsberg, a former silver mining village that sits 50 miles southwest of Oslo.  

Given that the attacker apparently fired at victims chosen at random and that last year police had contacted him over concerns that he had been radicalized after converting to Islam, authorities are calling this event a terrorist attack. 

Norway’s domestic security agency, known as PST, said that the motive for the attack remains unclear.  

The attack left four women and one man, ages 50 to 70, dead. Two people who were injured and subsequently hospitalized are expected to survive their injuries.  

The first reports to police about a man shooting arrows in the downtown area of the town came in at 6:12 p.m. When police confronted him six minutes later, he escaped and continued firing at people in the area. One of the people he hit with an arrow was an off-duty police officer. 

“The police said the attacker used a second weapon in the rampage, though they did not offer further details,” the New York Times reported. 

Although Bråthen was detained 35 minutes after the first reports of violence, authorities believe that all the deaths occurred after the police initially confronted the attacker 

“The police attorney leading the investigation, Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, said that after his arrest, the suspect told police ‘I did this,’” NPR reported 

Although the threat level for the country has not been increased, all police officers were ordered to carry firearms as a precaution. Norwegian police typically are not armed. 

Norway boasts one of the lowest crimes rates in the world, and homicide is also rare. “In a country with a population of just over five million, there were 31 murders last year, most involving people who knew each other,” according to the Times.  

In fact, this attack is the worst mass killing in the country since 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Brevik killed 77 people with a bomb and firearms. Brevik first set off the bomb in Oslo, next to the building that contained the prime minister’s office, and later opened fire at a camp for left-wing teenagers on the island of Utøya. Most of the deaths occurred at the camp. Brevik was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence. 

The Times also noted that Norwegian authorities remain concerned over right-wing extremism, with intelligence analysts noting that young men and boys still idolize Brevik.  

To curb acts of terrorism and politically motivated violence, authorities are using preventative measures, the first of which is a “conversation of concern,” which was a step police took with Bråthen. This year, however, no one had reported continued concerns that Bråthen may have been radicalized, according to CNN 

The country also maintains strict gun-control laws, and prior to Brevik’s attack, Norway only had one mass shooting, which occurred in 1998. In that instance, the shooter killed four people and injured two more. 

More recently, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi fired upon a mosque in the outskirts of Oslo in August 2019; however, people attending the mosque managed to overpower him before he was able to seriously injure anyone. Just before the attack, Philip Manshaus shot and killed his 17-year-old stepsister, who had been adopted from China. Prosecutors later claimed that the murder was racially motivated. Manshaus was also sentenced to 21 years in prison.