Norway police probe mosque shooting as ‘attempted act of terrorism’

STOCKHOLM, Aug 12 (NNN-AGENCIES ) – A shooting at a mosque in Norway is being treated as an “attempted act of terrorism,” police said on Sunday, but the male suspect has so far declined to answer police questions.

“He still doesn’t wish to give an explanation,” Grete Lien Metlid, assistant chief of the Oslo police district, told dpa late Sunday.

The suspect, a Norwegian in his early 20s, was arrested in connection with Saturday’s incident at the Al-Noor Islamic Centre mosque in Baerum, west of Oslo.

Earlier, police said the suspect has expressed extremist far-right views and they were investigating his online activities.

That work was ongoing, as were efforts to map his background, Metlid said.

He has been charged with attempted murder in connection with the mosque shooting. Several shots were fired but no one was seriously injured.

Police have not commented what type of weapons were used or how the suspect acquired them, pending questioning of the suspect, Metlid said. 

Police – who have not named the suspect – said he was also charged with murder after the body of a young woman was found late Saturday in his home in Baerum. Police said she was his 17-year-old stepsister.

The suspect met Sunday with his lawyer, Unni Fries, who would not comment how her client intended to plead, public broadcster NRK reported.

Rune Skjold of the Oslo police earlier said that the suspect had expressed support for Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian politician who collaborated with the occupying German forces during World War II, and espoused anti-immigrant views.

Police have no information that the suspect had acted with others, but he had been active online, Skjold added.

The security service PST is also assisting the Oslo police with their investigations.

Several Norwegian media outlets reported that the suspect had posted a message praising mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, a few hours before the attack in Baerum.

He also allegedly supported suspects linked to recent shootings in the United States, for instance the man accused of fatally shooting 22 people at a shopping centre in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month.

Police prosecutor Pal Fredrik Hjort Kraby said the suspect was due to face a pre-trial detention hearing on Monday in which police would seek a four-week detention period.

Police also want a psychiatric assessment at a later stage, he added.

For the time being, the man is charged with attempted murder and murder, but terrorism charges could be added later, Kraby said.

Skjold said several shots were fired in the mosque and several weapons were found, but did not offer further details.

A video aired by Norwegian broadcaster NRK showed bloodstains on a carpet and lectern inside the mosque, and a shattered glass door.

Skjold lauded “the bravery” of a member of the mosque who overpowered the suspect on Saturday before police arrived at the scene.

The man, identified as 65-year-old Mohamed Rafiq, made a brief appearance outside a hotel in Baerum where members of the Al-Noor Islamic Centre mosque gathered to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

“I am grateful for the support and assistance I have received, I am still affected by this,” Rafiq said via his lawyer Abdul Satar Ali.

Rafiq later gave a brief account of how he had struggled with the suspect when he started to shoot at two other men in the mosque. He said he elbowed the suspect, and managed to throw away two weapons the suspect had.

“He put his finger inside my eye,” said Rafiq, who was also punched.

Another of the men in the mosque hit the suspect when he was on the floor.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg also visited the hotel to show her support.

“What happened is something that should not happen in Norway. Norway should be a safe place,” Solberg told reporters.

Later, Solberg and other cabinet members visited a mosque in Oslo.

The prime minister welcomed that fact that Norwegians have rallied at mosques to show their support. She said her government was committed to the security of Muslims and their right to exercise their faith.

Police have stepped up their presence at mosques across the country.