COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Danish man suspected of a bow-and-arrow attack on a small Norwegian town that killed five people and wounded two others is a Muslim convert who had previously been flagged as having being radicalized, police said Thursday.
The man is suspected of having shot at people in a number of locations in the town of Kongsberg on Wednesday evening. Several of the victims were in a supermarket, police said.
“There earlier had been worries of the man having been radicalized,” Police Chief Ole B. Saeverud told a news conference. He added that there were “complicated assessments related to the motive, and it will take time before this is clarified.” He didn’t elaborate on what was meant by being radicalized.
Saeverud added that the last report of concern was last year.
The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70, Saeverud said.
Police were alerted at 6:12 p.m. on Wednesday to a man shooting with a bow and arrows in Kongsberg, some 66 kilometers (41 miles) southwest of Oslo. Officers made contact with the suspect but he escaped and wasn’t caught until 6:47 p.m., 35 minutes after the attack began, Saeverud said.
Officials believe that the man didn’t start killing people until police arrived on the scene.
“From what we know now, it is reasonably clear that some, probably everyone, was killed after the police were in contact with the perpetrator,” Saeverud said.
Speaking calmly and clearly after his arrest, the suspect told police, “I did this,” said Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, the police attorney who is leading the investigation.
“He talked calmly and clearly described what he had done. He admitted killing the five people,” she told The Associated Press
The rampage happened in clear view of dozens of witnesses in this small town, which today is in hushed shock, according to onlookers. Police have already spoken to between 20 and 30 witnesses who saw the attacker wound and kill his victims, according to Svane Mathiassen.
“There are people who saw him in the city. Before the killings. That is when he injured people,” Svane Mathiassen said.
Witness Erik Benum, who lives on the same road as the supermarket that one of the crime scenes, told the AP that he saw the escaped shop workers sheltering in doorways.
“I saw them hiding in the corner. Then I went to see what was happening, and I saw the police moving in with a shield and rifles. It was a very strange sight.”
The following morning, the whole town was eerily quiet, he said. “People are sad and shocked.”
The bow and arrow were just part of the killer’s arsenal. But police are yet to confirm what other weapons he used. Weapons experts and other technical officers are being drafted in to help with the investigation.
Both the hospitalized victims are in intensive care. They include an off-duty police officer who was inside the store. Their condition was not immediately known.
The suspect is being held on preliminary charges, which is a step short of formal charges. Police believe he acted alone.
“It goes without saying that this is a very serious and extensive situation, and it naturally affects Kongsberg and those who live here,” Police spokesman Oeyvind Aas said earlier.
Newly appointed Prime Minister-Jonas Gahr Stoere called the attack “horrific.”
“This is unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock,” Gahr Stoere told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
In a statement to the mayor of Kongsberg, Norwegian King Harald V said people have “experienced that their safe local environment suddenly became a dangerous place. It shakes us all when horrible things happen near us, when you least expect it, in the middle of everyday life on the open street.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote on Twitter that he was “shocked and saddened by the tragic news coming from Norway.”
The main church in Kongsberg, a small town of some 26,000 inhabitants, was open to anyone in need of support.
“I don’t think anyone expects to have these kinds of experiences. But nobody could imagine this could happen here in our little town,” parish priest Reidar Aasboe told the AP.
Mark Lewis in London contributed to this report.
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