What do we know about the mass shooting in Oslo?

Oslo terror attack queerPhoto: Martin Solhaug Standal / NTB
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Terror, bloodshed, and deadly prejudice again returned to the nation’s capital last Friday as a 42-year-old man conducted a mass shooting at three sites in Oslo, killing two and injuring 21. The shootings were, according to the Police Security Service (PST), acts of “Islamic terrorism” that targeted places associated with Oslo Pride, the annual celebration of the LGBTQI+ community. The man responsible has been arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and terrorism.

A colorful celebration turns into a dark nightmare

At approximately 1:14 AM on Saturday, June 25, a man pulled a gun out of a bag and undertook a mass shooting in CJ Hambros Plass, central Oslo. Shooting first at the bar Per pa Hjørnet, he then proceeded to fire shots into the London Pub, a popular LGBTQI+ venue.

The concert venue, Herr Nilsen, and a takeaway food restaurant were also sprayed with shots. The mass shooting resulted in the death of two and 21 others sustaining injuries. Within five minutes of the shooting, members of the public tackled and held the man and police subsequently arrived and arrested the man. He was named on Saturday, by the media as 42-year-old Zaniar Matapour, a Norwegian national with an Iranian background.

Matapour has been remanded in police custody and has now been charged with murder, attempted murder, and terrorism. According to police, he has yet to break his silence during questioning and has now been moved to a prison in Oslo awaiting further questioning and a trial.

The shooting happened just hours before the annual Oslo Pride parade was due to take place. The parade was canceled but many in the LGBTQI+ took to the streets later on Saturday to take part in an impromptu march through central Oslo to the site of the mass shooting.

Police, and the man’s lawyer, have said it is too early to discover the motive for the attack but the PST considers it an act of extreme Islamist terrorism.

Oslo Pride postponed, many in the community still took to the streets

This mass shooting was a bitter blow for the LGBTQI+ community in Norway which was set to celebrate a particularly important Pride parade as it was the 50th anniversary of the decrminizaliton of homosexuality in Norway. Instead, many in that community are now left mourning the loss and injury of friends and family members whilst questioning their everyday safety in a normally tolerant and progressive society.

The impromptu march, which included hundreds of those in the LGBTQI+ community and also members of broader society, was seen as an emotional outpouring of grief, anger, and hurt that such an attack could take place in the center of Oslo in 2022. Furthermore, with the official Parade canceled, many in the LGBQTI+ community wanted to show that such a horrendous attack could not silence them. As the march wound its way through Oslo, the crowd was heard to defiantly chant in solidarity, “We’re here, we’re queer and we won’t disappear”.

The three locations affected by the mass shooting are now a makeshift memorial full of flowers and rainbow flags. The first venue affected by the mass shooting, Per på Hjornet, has since reopened. Owner Tadzedin Fetisi told NTB that whilst the mass shooting was “…incomprehensible and unspeakably sad” his venue would remain a place where “…everyone is warmly welcome, this has always been the case and this is how it will continue to be always.”

Roger Berg - PST
Roger Berg, of the PST, fronting a press conference. Photo: Javad Parsa / NTB

Police investigating several hypotheses despite PST’s initial label, much media speculation

Whilst the PST was quick to label the attack an act of extremist Islamist terrorism, the police were more circumspect when asked about a motive. Police attorney Børge Enoksen spoke to NTB about the ongoing investigation into a motive or motives. The police, Enoksen said, had several hypotheses including whether the attack was caused by mental problems or was a hate crime. Enoksen said that it may indeed be “a combination of the hypotheses that is the case in our case, but it is too early for us to have clarity now.”

Some have called out the PST for its rapid labeling of the attack as an extremist Islamist terrorist act. Lars Gule, an extremism researcher, was interviewed by the newspaper Dagbladet following the attacks. He told the paper that he felt the PST’s decision to label it as terrorism could affect how the case is investigated before all the facts are found. Gule said he was worried that the “…PST has not learned from the Kongsberg case. Now we have a new PST chief who determines terror, but it is not PST that decides this…” The Kongsberg case was thought, initially, to be a terrorist act before psychiatric problems were highlighted and the offender has recently been sentenced to compulsory mental health care

Media reports, however, have now emerged that Matapour was known to police and the PST. He has several previous convictions including one for carrying a knife in a public place and was, according to VG, interviewed by the PST this May “in connection with the fact that he had shown interest in markings and statements that are perceived as a violation of Islam” but was not deemed a threat.

There are also several reports that Matapour was stopped in a car with an Islamist and key member of the Islamist State-linked Profetens Ummah, Arfan Bhatti. The police are trying to piece together what occurred before Matapour carried out the attack and the previous hours and events are seen as crucial.

Yet according to the lawyer of Matapour, John Christian Elden (who also defended Bhatti for several terror-related crimes) told NTB that “the police have shown no interest in Bhatti” and it was only “the media who have speculated so far…”

Police, City Council, and Mayor urge people to follow advice about memorial

Oslo Pride planned a memorial service to take place at Rådhusplassen, in front of the Oslo City Hall on Monday. The Oslo police, Oslo City Council leader Raymond Johansen (AP), and Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen have issued a rare joint appeal for citizens to take heed of the police warning. In a post on Facebook, Johansen wrote that the Police had asked Oslo Pride to postpone the memorial service due to new advice on the security situation.

Johansen said that “Oslo Municipality takes note of this, and as City Council leader, I ask people to follow the police’s advice. But let me say: We stand shoulder to shoulder with Oslo Pride, the queer environment, and their events in the time to come.”

At a press conference on Monday, Police Inspector Martin Strand spoke of a new assessment of the security situation for such a memorial. Strand was quoted by Avisa Oslo as saying that the police “…became acquainted with this [the planned memorial service] late last night, and we see that the event will be big. Therefore, we can not recommend people to show up.”

The PST has also raised the terror threat level for the country to “extraordinary” – the highest possible level.

Oslo police
Oslo Police at the scene of the mass shooting. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB

Mass shooting makes headlines worldwide, leaders home and abroad decry intolerance and violence

The mass shooting made headlines around the world and world leaders were quick to offer support and send their condolences to those affected. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a media briefing on Saturday that the United States strongly “condemns this act of terror” and that the United States “stands 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.” Emmanuel Macron, President of France, wrote that Oslo had been “hit by the barbarity of an Islamist terrorist” and called for unity against such hatred noting that “we will always be stronger united.”

Here in Norway, King Harald spoke of his family’s reaction to the tragic shooting. He said that they were “appalled” by such violence and that “We must stand together to defend our values: Freedom, diversity, and respect for each other. We must continue to stand up for all people to feel safe.” His son, Crown Prince Håkon attended the scene of the shooting on Saturday to pay his respects and console members of the public with his wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit, and their son, Prince Sverre Magnus.

Several prominent politicians have voiced their support and condolences. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that this was “a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people” whilst urging members of the LGBTQI+ community that they are not alone. His predecessor, Conservative Party leader, Erna Solberg, said in a statement that this was “…an attack on the freedom to love whoever you want” and did not want this to scare Norway from being an inclusive society. Minister of Culture and Gender Equality Anette Trettebergstuen spoke of how her some of her friends had been shot at and the rainbow – that symbol of the LGBTQI+ community – had turned black.

Source : #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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