HELSINKI (AP) – The Norwegian domestic intelligence service says that such attacks, as earlier this month in the city of Kongsberg, are very difficult to anticipate and prevent, and are likely to happen again in an open society such as Norway.
“Such an attack, which a person carries out on impulse by simple means, is happening again,” said Arne Christian Haugstoeyl, director of counterterrorism at the acronym PST, in an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on Saturday. “I think it forces a debate about the risks we have to live with in a democratic and open society.”
Five people died and three others were wounded in the town of Kongsberg in southern Norway on 13 October when suspect Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, attacked the victims with a bow and arrows and unspecified stabbing weapons.
How tragic the outcome will be in such cases in the future depends more on the police response time than on the extent to which the intelligence service has managed to anticipate it, Haugstoeyl told Aftenposten. He added that “it is not possible to guarantee that you will be able to stop” the attack in advance.
In 2017, PST informed Norwegian police that Andersen Braathen, who was on the agency’s radar, had released a threatening video.
“Unfortunately, many people make hostile and threatening statements,” Haugstoeyl told Aftenposten. “Every week we get information about an incredible number of videos, comments, photos and posts that are rougher and more extreme than this video.”
He hesitated when asked by Aftenposten if the PST could have done something different to prevent the Kongsberg attack, and said he was awaiting the conclusions of an ongoing independent investigation into police delays in arresting Andersen Braathen because the response was too slow.
Andersen Braathen has confessed to the murders and is initially charged with five murders. The Norwegian police estimate that the suspect’s apparent mental illness was a probable cause of the attack, while Andersen Braathen’s statement on the Islamic Commission had become a less important line of investigation.
Police said Monday that victims of the riot were likely stabbed to death after Andersen Braathen first used arrows to wound them.