Oslo ‘Pride’ attack leaves two dead

Published June 26, 2022
Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway kneel at a makeshift memorial in the aftermath of a shooting in central Oslo.—AFP
Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway kneel at a makeshift memorial in the aftermath of a shooting in central Oslo.—AFP

OSLO: Terrified revellers at a gay bar in Oslo hid in a basement and desperately called loved ones as a gunman went on the rampage, killing two people and injuring more than 20 on the day the city was due to celebrate its annual Pride parade.

The attack took place in the early hours of Saturday, with victims shot inside and outside the London Pub, a longstanding hub of Oslo’s LGBTQ scene, as well as in the surrounding streets and at one other bar in the centre of the Norwegian capital.

Bili Blum-Jansen, who was in the London Pub, said he fled to the basement to escape the hail of bullets and hid there along with 80 to 100 other people. “Many called their partners and family, it felt almost as if they were saying goodbye. Others helped calm down those who were extremely terrified,” he told TV2.

Oslo Pride

Security authorities raised the country’s terrorism threat assessment to its highest level following the attack. Norwegian police, who are not normally armed, will now carry guns until further notice as a precaution, national chief Benedicte Bjoernland said.

The organisers of Oslo Pride cancelled Saturday’s parade, citing police advice. “We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will mark Pride celebrations at home,” they said. Still, several thousand people began a spontaneous march in central Oslo, waving rainbow flags and chanting in English: “We’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear.”

King Harald of Norway said he and the royal family were devastated by the attack, which police said also left 10 people seriously wounded and 11 with minor injuries. “We must stand together and defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for each other,” the 85-year-old monarch added.

The shooting took place just months after Norway marked 50 years since the abolition of a law that criminalised gay sex.

Suspect arrested

Norwegian police have arrested a man after two people were killed and over 20 wounded in shootings near a gay bar. The suspect, who was already known to the anti-terrorism services, was arrested quickly after the shooting.

Norway’s domestic intelligence service PST, which is responsible for counter-terrorism, said it was treating the attack as “an act of Islamist terrorism”.

The suspect “has a long history of violence and threats,” PST’s chief Roger Berg said. He had been on the PST’s radar “since 2015 in connection with concerns about his radicalisation” and membership “in an Islamist extremist network”, Berg told a presser.

The suspect’s lawyer, John Christian Elden, told Norwegian news agency NTB he expected his client to be put under “judicial observation” to determine his mental state, as is usually done in such cases.

Police had earlier said the suspect was a 42-year-old Norwegian man of Iranian descent. Norwegian media named him as Zaniar Matapour, describing him as a father of Iranian Kurdish origin who arrived in Norway as a child.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2022

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