Norway revises deadly attack account: no bow and arrow and doubts over terrorism

Norwegian authorities were quick to sketch out a method and possible motive after a 35-minute rampage last week that left five people dead in Kongsberg: The suspect, they said, targeted victims with a bow and arrow in a potential “terrorist act” linked to Islamist extremism.

That account has unraveled in recent days as investigators acknowledged that they were now looking at “illness” as a possible factor and that those killed were stabbed — some in their homes — rather than hit by arrows.

In explaining the revisions, a police inspector, Per Thomas Omholt, told reporters that the suspect, a 37-year-old Danish man, did not take his professed conversion to Islam “very seriously” — comments that could become part of a wider review of the police response and the initial announcements linking the attack to possible Islamist radicalization.

Norway’s Police Security Service, known as the PST, said it was launching an independent investigation of the responses by police and security agencies.

“Given the seriousness of the matter, it is very important that learning points and any weaknesses and errors are identified quickly in order to be able to implement measures immediately,” the PST said in a statement.

The suspect was being held in a medical facility pending psychiatric evaluation and “a full judicial observation” into his mental state, police said Friday.

Police say the attacks appear to have started at a Coop Extra supermarket in Kongsberg, about 40 miles southwest of the capital, Oslo. An off-duty police officer — who was among at least three people injured — emerged from the store with an arrow lodged in his back and warning others to get away, witnesses told Norway’s public broadcaster.

One of them said she saw a person carrying arrows in a basket over a shoulder. Omholt reported Monday that the attacker appeared later without any archery equipment, and attacked people at random.

“Some were killed inside their own homes, others out in public,” he said. He said that officers had seized the “stabbing arms” linked to the attack. However, the police are still gathering witness testimony.

Police chief Oeyvind Aas on Oct. 13 said a man armed with a bow and arrow killed and injured several people in Kongsberg, Norway. (The Washington Post)

Police have also cast doubt on claims that the suspect was a Muslim convert, and Omholt has said that while the man had professed this before, he did not appear “serious.”

In a statement Monday, police said that “illness appears to be the most probable hypothesis in terms of motive for the action.”

Police have charged a man they identified as Espen Andersen Brathen, who they say appeared to act alone and has confessed. He is currently facing five murder charges, but not terror.

Residents placed flowers and lighted candles for those who died: four women and a man, ages 52 to 78. It was the worst mass killing in the Scandinavian country since 2011, when a right-wing extremist killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting.

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