A 42-year-old Norwegian national of Iranian decent has been arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder and terrorist acts after a shooting in the centre of Norway’s capital, Oslo. Two people died and 21 were wounded early on Saturday in what police called an “act of Islamist terrorism” on the eve of the Oslo’s annual gay Pride parade which was due to be held on Saturday, and was formally cancelled on police advice. Hundreds of people marched near the scene later in the day, shouting: “We’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear!”
The shootings were in and near the London Pub, a popular LGBTQ+ venue, the Herr Nilsen jazz club and another pub. The suspect took out a gun from his bag and started firing, forcing terrified people to either throw themselves to the ground or flee eyewitnesses said. The attacker was arrested by police officers – who were helped by bystanders – minutes later. Two weapons were retrieved at the crime scene by police, one of them a fully automatic gun.
The terror alert level in Norway has now been raised to its highest level, though the country’s PST intelligence service said it currently had “no indication” further attacks were likely.
Rainbow flags and flowers were laid near the scene of the attack, which was sealed off by police tape, and bystanders comforted each other with hugs.
The gunman was known to security services since 2015 as a “suspected radicalised Islamist”, and had a history of mental illness, Norway’s PST intelligence service said.
“There is reason to think that this may be a hate crime,” police said earlier. “We are investigating whether… Pride was a target in itself or whether there are other motives.”
King Harald, Norway’s monarch, said he and his family were “horrified” by the violence. He said “we must stand together” to defend “freedom, diversity and respect for each other”.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she was “shocked by the heinous attack on innocent people”, while French President Emmanuel Macron said: “We stand stronger against hate if we stand together.”
In the US, John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said: “We’re all horrified by the mass shooting in Oslo today targeting the LGBTQI+ community there and our hearts obviously go out to the all the families of the victims, the people of Norway, which is a tremendous ally, and of course the LGBTQI+ community there and around the world,”
There have been a number of homophobic attacks around Pride events recently. However, this act is being called and of Islamic Terrorism and not homophobic terrorism because the attacker is of Muslim decent.
Payton Gendron accused of killing 10 Black people in a racist attack on a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket was indicted by a grand jury on a state domestic terrorism and hate crime charge that would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Frank R James who has shot 20 people last month at the Brooklyn Subway has been charged with terrorism charges. Until recently, if an attacker is considered Muslim, they are assumed to be terrorists. More recently, the attacker would have to have ideological purpose are considered terrorists. Nathaniel Veltman who killed a Muslim family in London Ontario was charged with terrorism, however, Alexandre Bissonnette who shot six praying in Mosque in Quebec City was not charged with any hate crime or terrorism.