Two people were killed in an early Saturday fire in Oslo’s nightlife district, police investigating a possible terrorist attack at the Norwegian capital’s annual pride festival. A person was seriously injured.
Investigators said the suspect, originally identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen from Iran, was arrested after firing in three locations in central Oslo.
The motive was unknown, but the organizers of Oslo Pride canceled the parade set on Saturday as the highlight of the week-long festival.
One of the shootings took place outside the London Pub, a popular bar in the city’s LGBTQ community, hours before the parade began.
Police lawyer Christian Hatro said the suspect was detained on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, and terrorism based on the number of people targeted at multiple locations.
“Our overall assessment is that there is reason to believe that he wanted to cause serious fear in the population,” Hatro said.
Hatro said the suspect’s mental health was also being investigated.
“If he has a medical history, you need to look it up. That’s not what we know now,” he said.
The shooting took place around 1 am local time, with panicked delights fleeing the streets and trying to hide from the shooters.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist for the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he had witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the scene with a bag. He picked up his weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK.
“At first I thought it was an airsoft gun, then the glass in the bar next door shattered and I realized I had to run for the cover.”
Police inspector Tore Soldal said two of the shooting victims had died and ten had been treated for serious injuries, none of which were considered life-threatening.
“The shooting outside the London pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and shocking attack on innocent people,” Jonas Gahr Støre said in a Facebook post.
He said the shooting caused fear and sadness in the LGBTQ community, although the motivation is unknown.
“We are all by your side,” writes Gahr Stoere.
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told the Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor in a group of about 10 people until he was told he was safe.
“Many people were afraid of their lives,” he said. “Several injured on the way home, I knew something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people panicking on the streets of Oslo as shots rang in the background.
Investigators said the suspect was known not only to Norwegian security police but also to police, but not to serious violent crimes. His criminal record included drug and weapons crimes against having a knife, Hatro said.
Mr Hatro said police had seized two weapons after the attack. They are pistols and automatic weapons, both of which are “not modern” without giving details.
He said the suspect had not made any statements to the police and was in contact with his defense counsel.
Hatro said it was premature to say whether the shooters specifically targeted members of the LGBTQ community.
“We have to scrutinize it, we don’t know yet,” he said.
Still, police advised the organizers of the Pride Festival to cancel the Saturday parade.
“Therefore, Oslo Pride encourages everyone planning to attend or watch the parade not to show up. All events related to Oslo Pride will be cancelled,” the organizer said. It is stated on the official Facebook page.
Norway’s crime rate is relatively low, but it has experienced violent attacks by right-wing militants. It was one of the worst shootings in Europe in 2011, killing 69 people on Utoya after firing a bomb in Oslo. Eight people died.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed her sister-in-law and fired at a mosque, but was overwhelmed before the injured.