Suspect in Kongsberg killings had converted to Islam, police say

OSLO, Oct 14 (Reuters) – The man suspected of killing five people in a bow-and-arrow attack in Norway had converted to Islam and police had been worried over signs of his radicalisation, regional police chief Ole Bredrup Saeverud told a news conference on Thursday.

A 37-year-old Danish citizen is suspected of carrying out the attacks, police have said. He is in custody and is believed to have acted alone.

The BBC: The victims were all aged between 50 and 70, regional police chief Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters on Thursday morning. He said they were most likely killed after the police first confronted the attacker at 18:18.

Reports of the incident were “horrifying”, said Prime Minister Erna Solberg, hours before she was due to leave office.

Norway’s outgoing justice minister Monica Maeland told reporters the police did not yet know whether or not it was act of terrorism and could not comment on details emerging about the suspect.

Police prosecutor Ann Irén Svane Mathiassen told TV2 that the man had lived in Kongsberg for several years and was known to police.

The suspect was taken to a police station in the town of Drammen, where his defence lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, said he was questioned for more than three hours and was co-operating with authorities. The suspect had a Danish mother and Norwegian father, he explained.

Norwegian police are not usually armed and after the attack the police directorate ordered all officers nationwide to carry firearms as an extra precaution. “The police have no indication so far that there is a change in the national threat level,” the directorate said in a statement (in Norwegian).

The chairman of Kongsberg’s only mosque, Kongsberg Islamic Cultural Centre, Oussama Tlili, strongly denies the attack. Oussama Tlili says he is not aware that any of the members of the mosque fit the perpetrator’s description as Danish and convert.

“…I couldn’t believe it, and my mind quickly began to swirl about whether this was someone from the far-right side or a Muslim. He’s not known from our mosque. There are very few times someone from a Scandinavian background has approached the mosque or has attended our events.”

Although the motive for the attack is not known, Tlili is concerned about how the attack will affect Muslims in Norway, now that it is known that the suspected perpetrator has converted to Islam.

“I’m afraid of the consequences it will have for Muslims in Norway. ..”

The mosque has existed in Kongsberg for almost 14 years, and has 360 members. Although Kongsberg Church is open on Thursday for all those affected, the mosque has decided to keep its doors closed.

“Are you concerned about some kind of revenge attack on the mosque, now that it is known that the man is Muslim?”

“We don’t rule anything out. There may be reactions if we learn that it is part of an organized action.”


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