A 42-year-old gunman was arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and terrorist acts on Saturday after he killed two people and injured 21 during an overnight shooting rampage in and around an Oslo gay bar — just hours before the city was supposed to hold its annual Pride parade.
“There is reason to think that this may be a hate crime,” Norwegian police said. “We are investigating whether… Pride was a target in itself or whether there are other motives.”
In the wake of what Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called a “terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people,” Oslo’s annual Pride celebration was canceled based on police advice.
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“We will soon be proud and visible again, but today, we will share our Pride celebrations from home,” Inger Kristin Haugsevje, leader of Oslo Pride, and Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of the Norwegian Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity, said in a statement.
As Reuters reported, “The attack took place in the early hours of Saturday, with victims shot inside and outside the London Pub, a longstanding hub of Oslo’s LGBTQ scene, as well as in the surrounding streets and at one other bar in the center of the Norwegian capital.”
Bili Blum-Jansen, who was inside the London Pub at the time, sought refuge in the basement, hiding there alongside 80 to 100 other people.
“Many called their partners and family, it felt almost as if they were saying goodbye,” he told Norway’s TV2. “Others helped calm down those who were extremely terrified.”
“I had a bit of panic and thought that if the shooter or shooters were to arrive, we’d all be dead,” he added. “There was no way out.”
Marcus Nybakken, who had left the London Pub shortly before gunfire erupted and returned later to help, recounted the horrific shooting and its aftermath.
“Many people were crying and screaming, the injured were screaming, people were distressed and scared — very, very scared,” Nybakken said. “My first thought was that Pride was the target, so that’s frightening.”
Although the city’s Pride parade was canceled as a result of the attack, Reuters reported that “several thousand people began what appeared to be a spontaneous march in central Oslo, waving rainbow flags and chanting in English: ‘We’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear.'”
The suspect was detained minutes after the shooting began, according to police who said they believe he acted alone. Two weapons, one of them a fully automatic gun, were retrieved from the crime scene, they added.
National security authorities raised Norway’s terrorism threat assessment to its highest level following the attack.
Norway’s law enforcement officials, who are not usually armed, will carry guns until further notice, national police chief Benedicte Bjoernland announced.
Norway has lower crime rates than many of its high-income peers. However, this is not the first hate-motivated mass shooting in the Scandinavian nation of 5.4 million. The deadliest occurred in 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people.