Detention hearing for Norway bow-and-arrow attacker

KONGSBERG, NORWAY (AFP) – A judge in Norway will rule in a custody hearing on Friday (Oct 15) for the man who confessed to a deadly bow-and-arrow attack that the police have said was probably an act of terror.

Emotions were still running high in Kongsberg, a quiet town in south-eastern Norway, where residents gathered on Thursday evening for a candlelit vigil 24 hours after the attack that left five dead and three injured.

“We’re a small community and we need to be there for each other,” Ms Kristine Johansen, a 29-year-old teacher, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The police have described Espen Andersen Brathen as a 37-year-old Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalised.

He has confessed to killing five people and injuring three on Wednesday in Kongsberg, using a bow and arrows and other undisclosed weapons before the police managed to arrest him.

“We would like to have him in custody for at least four weeks,” prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told AFP.

The Kongsberg court was expected to make its decision without Brathen being present.

“I think he will probably not show up,” Ms Svane Mathiassen said, adding that Brathen had not contested the detention request.

Investigators appeared to be treating the case as an act of terror given the nature of the attack with rudimentary weapons, the fact that he attacked his victims randomly and that red flags had been raised about his possible radicalisation.

“There is no doubt that the actual act appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Mr Hans Sverre Sjovold, told a news conference on Thursday.

The authorities have however not ruled out the possibility of mental health illness.

“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time,” Mr Sjovold said.

People gathering at a makeshift memorial in Kongsberg, Norway, on Oct 14, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

According to Ms Mathiassen, a psychiatric evaluation of Brathen began on Thursday.

“It could take maybe a couple of months” before the evaluation is completed, she said.

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The suspect was known to PST, which is in charge of Norway’s anti-terrorism efforts, but few details have emerged about why.

“There were fears linked to radicalisation previously,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters.

Those reports were before this year, and the police had followed up at the time.

Norwegian media reported that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against him regarding two close family members after threatening to kill one of them, and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012.

Local media also unearthed a video Brathen allegedly posted to social media in 2017, in which he issued a “warning” and declared his Muslim faith.

Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived.

A secured street with evidence markers on the ground in Kongsberg, Norway, on Oct 14, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

The picturesque, tranquil town of 25,000 people is located about 80km west of Oslo.

Speaking anonymously, one of Brathen’s neighbours described the suspect as a big person with a crew cut and a serious demeanour, who was always seen “alone”.

“No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring,” the neighbour told AFP.

Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.

Several planned jihadist attacks have been foiled by security services.

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