Oslo’s annual Pride parade was canceled on Saturday following a deadly shooting at a gay bar that Norwegian police are investigating as a possible terrorist attack.
Two people were killed and eight others taken to hospital after the shooting near the London Pub, which describes itself on its website as “the largest gay and lesbian venue in Oslo.”
Police received multiple calls about the shooting at 1:14 a.m. local time, and arrived at the scene minutes later. They apprehended the male suspect three minutes after arrival, police said.
The suspect, charged with terrorism, is a Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, and was “known to the police,” but has only received “minor convictions” up until now, prosecutor Christian Hatlo told reporters in Oslo Saturday.
Norway’s domestic intelligence service said it was working to clarify whether more acts of violence may be planned after the shooting. The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) announced in a tweet Saturday that it was “informed about the shooting in Oslo on Saturday.”
“We are now contributing all the relevant information we have to the Oslo police district and are working to clarify whether more acts of violence may be planned. We do not currently have any indications of that,” the PST said.
Hatlo said police had charged the suspect with “murder, attempted murder and terrorist acts.“
He said the terrorism charge was justified on the basis of the number of injured and dead people, the number of crime scenes and an “overall assessment” indicating that the accused intended to “create serious fear in the population.”
At the time of the press conference, police had attempted to question the suspect but had not yet been successful in doing so, Hatlo said. The suspect was taken to the police station, and police told CNN there were currently no other suspects.
As for the charges, Hatlo said the authorities will see “what the investigation shows.”
The suspect was armed with two weapons during the shooting, police said. They did not confirm what weapons he used due to the pending investigation.
There were wounded people on the ground inside and outside the bar when the police arrived. “The scene was chaotic, it was a warm evening and a lot of people were outside, so there were people running everywhere,” said the Norwegian police.
Among the eight in hospital, three people are in critical condition. Another 14 victims sustained minor injuries.
In a statement published on Facebook after the shooting, the London Pub condemned the incident as “absolutely awful and pure evil.” The bar said all its employees were safe, and expressed condolences for the victims and their families.
Oslo’s annual Pride parade, scheduled to take place on Saturday, was canceled in the wake of the shootings after “clear advice and recommendation from the police.”
Writing on Facebook, organizers asked everyone not to attend and said all events in connection with Pride were also canceled.
“We will follow the police’s recommendations and take care of each other. Warm thoughts and love go to relatives, the injured and others affected,” said leader of Oslo Pride, Inger Kristin Haugsevje, and leader of the Association for Gender and Sexuality Diversity, Inge Alexander Gjestvang, in a joint statement.
“We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will hold and share the pride celebrations from home.”
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre also expressed his condolences to the victims, calling the shooting “a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
Støre later called for unity and said “even though we do not know if the queer environment was the goal, the queer environment is regardless the victim.”
“This day, June 25th, we were to celebrate love, we were to fill the streets in the colors of the rainbow, we were to showcase our community and our freedom. Instead, we are filled with grief,” he said. “Let there be no doubt. We are a community, we are a diverse and strong community, and we will never be threatened or give up our values.”
He re-reiterated that the perpetrator belonged “to an Islamist environment” but emphasized that “if this is Islamic terror, as PST [the Norwegian Police Security Service] points out, then many Muslims will feel vulnerable today and, in the time ahead. And I know that many Muslims in our country are also scared and in despair. It is our common responsibility to make it clear that no one other than the person or the people behind the attack is responsible for it.”
The White House said it was shocked by the killings. “We’re all horrified by the mass shooting in Oslo today, targeting the LGBTQI+ community there. And our house our hearts obviously go out to all the families of the victims, the people of Norway, which is a tremendous ally,” John Kirby, the NSC coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Biden was flying to Europe.
He said the US has been in touch with the Norwegian government to offer condolences and offer any support they need after the shooting. [CNN]
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