“Radicalised” convert kills five in Norway
On the evening of Wednesday October 13, 2021, in the city of Kongsberg, some 50 miles from Oslo, five people were killed and two more were injured in a suspected terrorist attack by a lone perpetrator. The attacker, named Espen Andersen Bråthen, was armed with a bow and arrows. He was later apprehended and charged.
The police announced that the man is a convert to Islam and that radicalisation concerns related to the man have been raised in the past. “We did not receive reports of concern related to the man in 2021,” said Chief of Police Ole Bredrup Sæverud in the South-Eastern Police District. “But there have been reports before, and these have been followed up”.
Norway’s outgoing Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said, “The news is gruesome. The events shake us. I understand that many are afraid. That is why it’s important to emphasise that police are in control.” A local woman who knew one of the victims said the “worst part” of the attack was “all the hate against religion and race that comes with it”. She added:
If we are from here or there, we are one community. My neighbours are both Muslims and Christians, and I know they would not hurt a fly. Sadly, people start to suspect others. It hurts me. But I refuse to let the hate win.
Several planned jihadist attacks have also been foiled by security services in recent years.
In June 2021, a 16-year-old youth of Syrian origin was convicted by the Oslo District Court of plotting a terrorist attack in Norway and for being associated with the Islamic State terrorist organisation. Evidence presented during the case included the youth’s writings, which stated that he should start with jihad “soon”. He had made nicotine poison in preparation for an attack that would take place on May 17, Norway’s national day. He was sentenced to five years in prison with three years’ probation.
Norway’s most devastating attack since World War Two came from far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people and injured over 300 in 2011, in a bomb attack and shooting spree. Far-right extremists remain a threat in Norway. In 2019, however, the Norwegian Police Security Service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST), reported that,
The most serious terrorist threat in 2019 will continue to come from extreme Islamist groups. It is considered possible that extreme Islamists will try to carry out terrorist attacks in this country. At the same time, the number of new people who are radicalized into these groups will remain low.
But in February 2020, it was reported that Hans Sverre Sjøvold, the new chief of the PST, said “it’s just as probable that a new terrorist attack will be carried out by right-wing extremists as by Islamic extremists. Politically motivated violence by both extremist groups has emerged as the biggest threat currently facing Norway”. It is uncertain if the PST will change its threat assessment in the aftermath of this most recent attack.