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Terror alert triggered in Norway after 2 dead and 10 injured in a shooting at a nightclub in Oslo

At least two people were killed and 10 injured in a shooting at a nightclub in Oslo, Norway, early Saturday morning, according to Norwegian authorities, prompting officials to lift the terror alert.

Norway Shooting
Flowers are laid at the scene of a shooting in central Oslo, Saturday, June 25, 2022. Norwegian police said they are investigating an overnight shooting in Oslo that killed two people and injured more than a dozen as a possible case of terrorism.

Hakon Mosvold Larsen/AP

Investigators said the suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen from Iran, was arrested after opening fire at three locations in downtown Oslo.

Police said two men, one in his 50s and the other in his 60s, died in the shooting. Ten people were treated for serious injuries, but none of them are believed to be in life-threatening condition. Eleven others were slightly injured.

Norway’s police security service raised its terror alert level from ‘moderate’ to ‘extraordinary’ – the highest level – after the attack, which sent panicked revelers fleeing into the streets or trying to hide from the shooter.

The service’s acting chief, Roger Berg, called the attack an “extreme Islamist terrorist act” and said the suspect had “a long history of violence and threats”, as well as mental health issues.

He said the agency, known by its Norwegian acronym PST, first became aware of the suspect in 2015 and then became concerned that he had become radicalized and part of an unspecified Islamist network.

Norwegian media named the suspect as Zaniar Matapour, an Oslo resident who arrived in Norway with his family from a Kurdish part of Iran in the 1990s.

The suspect’s defense attorney, John Christian Elden, said his client had not spoken to investigators and he cautioned against speculation about the motive.

“He gave no reason. It’s too early to conclude whether this is a hate crime or a terrorism crime,” Elden said in an email to The Associated Press.

On the advice of police, organizers canceled a Pride parade that was scheduled for Saturday as the culmination of a week-long festival. Dozens of people marched through the capital anyway, waving rainbow flags.

Police attorney Christian Hatlo said it was too early to say whether the shooter specifically targeted members of the LGBTQ community.

“We need to take a closer look, we don’t know yet,” he said.

Police said civilians helped them arrest the man in custody, who was suspected of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, based on numbers of people targeted at multiple locations.

Investigators seized two weapons after the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon, Hatlo described both as “not modern” but did not give details.

Not far from Oslo Cathedral, crime scene tape cordoned off the bars where the shootings took place, including the London Pub, which is popular with the city’s LGBTQ community.

Crowds gathered outside and laid cards and flowers at impromptu memorials.

Martin Ebbestad, 29, had passed earlier, seen the memorials and returned with flowers.

The London Pub “is our favorite place. My boyfriend left 20 minutes before (it happened). He was sitting outside in the smoking area,” Ebbestad said. “We know this place so well. It doesn’t seem dangerous, but it feels very close.”

Olav Roenneberg, a journalist with Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.

“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He took a gun and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “At first I thought it was an air gun. Then the window of the bar next door was smashed and I realized I had to run for cover.”

Another witness, Marcus Nybakken, 46, said he saw many people running and shouting and thought it was a fight.

“But then I heard it was a shooting and there was someone shooting a machine gun,” Nybakken told Norwegian broadcaster TV2.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre called the shooting a “cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people”.

He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the LGBTQ community.

“We are all on your side,” Gahr Støre wrote on Facebook.

Christian Bredeli, who was at the London Pub, told Norwegian newspaper VG he hid on the fourth floor with a group of around 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out .

“Many feared for their lives,” he said. “On the way out, we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”

Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running through the streets of Oslo in panic as gunfire rang out in the background.

Police said the suspect had a criminal record that included a narcotics offense and a weapons offense for carrying a knife.

The PST said it spoke to him in May this year “because he had shown some interest in statements that were interpreted as insults to Islam”.

“In these conversations, it was assessed that he had no intention of violence, but PST is aware that he has had mental health issues,” the agency said in a statement.

Police have advised Pride festival organizers to cancel a parade scheduled for Saturday.

“Oslo Pride therefore urges anyone who had planned to participate in or watch the parade not to show up. All Oslo Pride-related events are cancelled,” organizers said on the event’s official Facebook page.

Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of FRI, a Norwegian organization for sexual and gender diversity, said the shooting had shaken the Nordic country’s LGBTQ community.

“We will come back later, proud, visible, but right now is not the time,” he told TV2.

Norway’s King Harald V offered his condolences to relatives of the victims and said the royal family was “horrified” by the attack.

“We must unite to defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for each other. We must continue to fight so that everyone feels safe,” the monarch said.

World leaders condemned the attack as they traveled to a Group of Seven summit in Germany. The host of the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, tweeted: “The people of Norway can be sure of our sympathy. The fight against terrorism unites us. French President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences in a tweet in Norwegian.

John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told reporters during a flight with US President Joe Biden at the G-7 summit: “Our thoughts are obviously with all the families of the victims, the Norwegian people, who are a wonderful ally, and of course the LGBTQI+ community there and around the world, quite frankly.”

Norway has a relatively low crime rate, but has seen a series of so-called lone wolf attacks in recent decades, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe. In 2011, a right-wing extremist killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after detonating a bomb in Oslo that killed eight people.

In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his half-sister and then opened fire at a mosque but was subdued before anyone was injured.

Last year, a Norwegian armed with a knives and a bow and arrow killed five people in a town in southern Norway. The attacker, suffering from schizophrenia, was sentenced Friday to compulsory psychiatric care.

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