A gunman opened fire in the Norwegian capital of Oslo’s nightlife district early Saturday morning, killing two people and injuring 21 others on the day the city was due to celebrate its annual LGBTQ Pride parade.
A 42-year-old Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin was arrested in connection to the shooting, which targeted multiple nightclubs, investigators said in a news conference.
The alleged suspect is believed to be a radicalized Islamist with a history of mental illness who had been known to intelligence services since 2015, according to Norwegian police.
Acting Norwegian security service chief Roger Berg called the shootings an “extreme Islamist terror act,” adding that the suspect had “long history of violence and threats.”
Two men, one in his 50s and the other his 60s, died in the shootings. Ten people were treated for serious injuries, but none of them was believed to be in life-threatening condition. Eleven others had minor injuries.
Berg said the 42-year-old man was taken into custody shortly after shooting at the London Pub, a nightclub and a bar popular with the city’s LGBTQ community and the streets surrounding it.
Authorities in the Scandinavian country raised the terror alert to the highest level.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement that the "United States has been in touch with the Norwegian government and offered to provide assistance."
"The horrific shooting in Norway this morning has been felt around the world. The United States strongly condemns this act of terror," Sullivan said. "We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims, the diverse and strong LGBTQI+ community of Oslo, our close NATO ally Norway, and all who have been devastated by this senseless act."
Police attorney Christian Hatlo said that the suspect was being held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, based on the number of people targeted at multiple locations. The suspect’s mental health was also under investigation.
“Our overall assessment is that there are grounds to believe that he wanted to cause grave fear in the population,” Hatlo said on Saturday.
A handgun and an automatic weapon was seized in connection with the shooting a, police said.
Eyewitness Olav Roenneberg told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that he “saw a man arrive with a bag,” before “he picked up a gun and started to shoot.”
“First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover,” Roenneberg, a journalist, said.
It was not immediately clear what was the motive for the attack or whether the shooting had any connection to the Pride parade that was to be held hours later in Oslo.
Organizers however, cancelled the parade at the advice of the police.
Norway's Prime minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called the shooting “a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people” in a Facebook post.
Photographs published by newspaper VG, broadcaster NRK and others showed a large gathering of emergency responders outside the London Pub, including police and ambulance workers.
Helicopters hovered above central Oslo while ambulance and police car sirens were heard across the city.
Oslo’s university hospital said it had gone on red alert following the shooting.
Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a right-wing extremist killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.