A suspected gunman charged over a deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Norway’s capital Oslo is believed to be a radicalised Islamist with a history of mental illness, according to the country’s intelligence service.
The attack, which killed two people and wounded more than 20, has led the PST security agency to raise its terror alert to “extraordinary” – the highest level.
Norwegian police, who are not normally armed, will now carry guns until further notice as a precaution, national chief
Benedicte Bjoernland said.
The organisers of Oslo Pride cancelled Saturday’s parade following police advice.
The suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, who has not named by police, is said to have been been known to the authorities since 2015.
Acting PST chief Roger Berg described the rampage as an “extreme Islamist terror act.”
He said the man, who was detained shortly after the attack, had a “long history of violence and threats” as well as mental health issues.
Police lawyer Christian Hatlo said the suspect’s criminal record included a narcotics offence and a weapons offence for carrying a knife.
“Our overall assessment is that there are grounds to believe that he wanted to cause grave fear in the population,” he added.
The shooting started at about 1am local time, with victims gunned down inside and outside the London Pub, a popular bar among the LGBT+ community, as well as in the surrounding streets and at another city centre bar.
‘People were very, very scared’
Bili Blum-Jansen, who was in the London Pub, said he fled to the basement to escape the hail of bullets and hid there along with up to 100 other people.
“Many called their partners and family, it felt almost as if they were saying goodbye. Others helped calm down those who were extremely terrified,” he told Norwegian TV.
“I had a bit of panic and thought that if the shooter or shooters were to arrive, we’d all be dead. There was no way out.”
Police said the suspect was arrested in a nearby street a few minutes later and is believed to have acted alone.
Two weapons, including a fully automatic gun, were found at the scene, they added.
Marcus Nybakken, 46, who had left the bar shortly before the shooting and returned later to help, said: “Many people were crying and screaming, the injured were screaming, people were distressed and scared – very, very scared.
“My first thought was that Pride was the target, so that’s frightening.”
Journalist Olav Roenneberg of public broadcaster NRK said he was in the area at the time and saw a man arrive with a bag, take out a gun and start to shoot.
“Then I saw windows breaking and understood that I had to take cover,” he added.
‘We must stand together’
The organisers of Oslo Pride said: “We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will mark Pride celebrations at home.”
However, several thousand people began a spontaneous march in the city centre, waving rainbow flags.
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre described the attack as “a cruel and deeply shocking on innocent people”.
King Harald of Norway said he and the royal family were devastated by the attack.
“We must stand together and defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for each other,” the 85-year-old monarch said.
The Nordic country of 5.4 million people has lower crime rates than many Western countries, though it has seen hate-motivated shootings, including when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011.