Norwegian police are favoring the “terrorist” route after a deadly night shooting near a gay bar in the heart of downtown Oslo, a shooting that led to the cancellation of an LGBT pride march planned for this Saturday.
The suspected perpetrator of the attack, which killed two people and wounded 21, including ten seriously, is a 42-year-old Norwegian of Iranian origin, known to counter-terrorism services, according to Oslo police.
“He is suspected of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and an act of terrorism,” said a police officer, Christian Hatlo, during a news conference.
This final count is motivated by “the number of people injured and killed, the number of crime scenes—at least three—and […] There is good reason to believe that he intended to sow terror,” he added.
According to the police, the vital prognosis of the injured person is not or no longer proven.
The shooting took place around 1am (Friday 2300 GMT) outside a pub, Per på hjørnet, and then outside a nearby gay club, the London Pub, in what was then a crowded neighborhood on that hot summer night.
“There are reasons to believe that this is a hate crime,” Mr Hatlo added, citing the nature of the locations attacked, “particularly the London pub”.
The LGBT pride march that was due to take place in Oslo on Saturday afternoon has been cancelled.
Following “clear” police recommendations, “all events related to Oslo Pride will be cancelled,” the organizers wrote in a statement.
As a show of solidarity, many people, often in tears and in silence, came to lay rainbow flags and bouquets of flowers near the scene of the attack, which was cordoned off by police, AFP journalists noted.
“Today is a day that reminds us that Pride is a day to fight for, the goal has not yet been reached,” said Trond Petter Aunås, struck on the spot.
At this point, police believe the perpetrator of the shooting acted alone, although investigations must reveal possible complicity in the preparation.
Police forces in the capital have been reinforced to deal with possible other incidents and officers who are generally unarmed in Norway have been ordered to arm themselves across the kingdom.
For their part, the anti-terrorist services said they were working to “determine whether further attacks might have been planned.” “At the moment we have no indications in this direction,” the HNP clarified on Twitter.
The suspect was arrested on Saturday at 1:19 am (Friday 23:19 GMT), five minutes after the first reports.
Civilians helped with his arrest as well as first aid, according to police, who hailed “a heroic effort”.
The man had previously faced police charges for minor offenses such as carrying a knife or a conviction for possession of narcotics.
Two weapons were seized in connection with the attack: an automatic weapon and a handgun, which Mr Hatlo presented as ‘old’.
A witness interviewed by the newspaper Verden walk (VG) referred to “a theater of war”. “There were a lot of casualties on the ground who had head injuries,” he said.
According to an NRK journalist present at the time of the shooting, the gunman came with a bag from which he removed a gun that he fired with.
A black bag could still be seen on the sidewalk Saturday in a broken glass-strewn area where forensic scientists were busy.
“The shooting outside the London pub in Oslo tonight is a terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
“To the homosexuals who are afraid and grieving now, I want to say that we are all with you,” he wrote on Facebook.
An IGC is scheduled for 14:00 (12:00 GMT).
King Harald said he was “appalled”. “We must come together to defend our values: freedom, diversity and mutual respect,” he said in an official statement.
Generally peaceful Norway was nonetheless the scene of bloody attacks, such as those carried out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011.