Norway bow-and-arrow attack suspect undergoing mental health evaluation

Security service says incident is being treated as an ‘act of terror’

Rory Sullivan
Friday 15 October 2021 17:23
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<p>People pay their respects to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg, Norway. </p>

People pay their respects to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg, Norway.

The suspect in a fatal bow-and-arrow attack in Norway is being treated by medical professionals amid concerns for his mental health, the police have confirmed.

Espen Andersen Braathen, 37, was detained on Wednesday 35 minutes after a killing spree left five people dead in the town of Kongsberg, located near the Norwegian capital Oslo.

Following a health assessment on Thursday, Braathen, who has confessed to the murders, was transferred “into the care of health services”, the police said in a statement on Friday.

Norwegian officials said he was probably suffering from mental illness.

Officers had looked into several lines of inquiry, including “anger, revenge, impulse, jihad, illness, provocation,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told a news conference.

“The hypothesis that has been strengthened the most in the first days of the investigation is that the background is illness,” Omholt said.

The suspect was being held in a locked “psychiatric institution” and other lines of inquiry were still being pursued, he added.

Earlier this week, Norwegian police admitted they were aware of Braathen’s radicalisation following his conversion to Islam. In a video he posted in 2017, the suspect issued a “warning” to all those he said needed “to redeem themselves”.

The PST, Norway’s security service, is treating Wednesday’s attack as “an act of terror” but has not commented further on the tragedy.

The attack is thought to have started in a Co-op supermarket at around 6pm on Wednesday evening, before encompassing a much larger area. Police arrived at the scene just before 6.30 pm local time.

The suspect is alleged to have entered numerous private residences, with the victims, who have yet to be officially named, found deceased both inside and outside buildings.

Four women and one man aged between 50 and 70 were killed, and a further three people, including a police officer, were injured. The victims’ families have been informed and are being given specialist support.

One student in Kongsberg described how he had spotted the attacker trying to gain entry to his building.

Norwegian student Mohammed Shaban said he saw the assailant try to climb through an open window, and that he and his friends locked themselves in another room.

"We ran into the bedroom to save ourselves and I held on to the door handle. From the window I saw the man, wearing grey jeans and a white singlet. I saw him from behind,” the 25-year-old told Reuters.

On Friday, a court ruled that Braathen could be held in pre-trial detention for four weeks while investigations continue.

The country’s new prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, described the attack earlier this week as “a cruel and brutal act”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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