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Norwegian authorities say a deadly bow-and-arrow attack appears to be terrorism

Police officers investigate a scene in Kongsberg, Norway after a man armed with bow killed several people before he was arrested Wednesday.
Hakon Mosvold Larsen
NTB/AFP via Getty Images
Police officers investigate a scene in Kongsberg, Norway after a man armed with bow killed several people before he was arrested Wednesday.

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:55 PM ET

Authorities in Norway have identified the suspect in "an act of terrorism" perpetrated by a bow-and-arrow wielding assailant that killed five people and wounded three others.

Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, was arrested after Wednesday evening's attack in the town of Kongsberg, located about 50 miles southwest of Oslo, police said. Authorities believe he acted alone.

The head of Norway's domestic intelligence service, known as the PST, said the attack "appears to be an act of terror."

"We do not know what the motivation of the perpetrator is," Hans Sverre Sjoevold said in English, according to The Associated Press. "We have to wait for the outcome of the investigation."

Police allege that Braathen killed four women and one man; three other people were seriously wounded. The victims were between the ages of 50 and 70, police said.

Earlier, officials said that the suspect is a Danish citizen and Muslim convert who had previously been flagged by authorities over concerns that he had become radicalized.

"There earlier had been worries of the man having been radicalized," regional police chief Ole B. Saeverud said at a news conference on Thursday. He also said there were "complicated assessments" regarding a motive and that it would take time before it could be clarified. He said the last report of concern over the suspect was last year.

The attack took place just as Norway was in the midst of a change of government, which took place Thursday morning.

Speaking on Wednesday, acting Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the attack "gruesome," according to Euro News. In comments to Norwegian news agency NTB, incoming Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said the assault represented "a cruel and brutal act."

The suspect's court-appointed attorney, Fredrik Neumann, said the suspect's mother is Danish and father is Norwegian. He said his client was cooperating and that he would appear before a judge on Friday, when details of the charges against him would be made public.

The police attorney leading the investigation, Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen, said that after his arrest, the suspect told police "I did this." Police said he is believed to have been the sole assailant. "We'll have to see if he also pleads guilty," she later told private broadcaster TV2, according to Reuters.

"There are people who saw him in the city. Before the killings. That is when he injured people," she said.

At 6:13 p.m. local time, police received several messages that a man was moving around with a bow and arrow in the Kongsberg town center, according to a police statement translated from Norwegian. Saeverud said that police urged residents to stay indoors and then briefly made contact with the suspect but did not manage to apprehend him until 6:47 p.m.

"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.

The attack Wednesday evening was the worst in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in a 2011 bombing attack in Oslo and mass shooting on the island of Utoya.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.