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TERRORISM

LATEST: Kongsberg attack may have been prompted by mental illness

An attack in Norway that left five people dead this week appears to have been motivated by mental illness, authorities indicated Friday, as the perpetrator was ordered to be kept in a medical facility.

The Kongsberg attack has been handed over to the health services amid speculation that he is mentally ill.
The Kongsberg attack has been handed over to the health services amid speculation that he is mentally ill. Pictured is a close up of police car in Vestfold. Photo by Vestfold politidistrikt hundepatrulje on Flickr.

“The strongest hypothesis after the first days of the investigation is that illness is in the background,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters two days after the attack.

On Friday a Norwegian court also ordered the man who confessed to killing five people in an attack to be held in detention in a medical facility, as questions mounted about his mental health.

Espen Andersen Brathen, a Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalised, will be held for an initial period of four weeks, the first two in total isolation, judge Ann Mikalsen ruled.

 A full psychiatric evaluation — which can take several months, according to the prosecutor — is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“This indicates that things are not exactly as they should be,” his lawyer, Fredrik Neumann said referring to his client’s mental health.

“A complete judicial assessment will clarify that,” he told Norwegian daily VG.

Brathen was not present in court on Friday, having not contested the detention request. While authorities have said the attack appeared to be an act of terror, they have not ruled out that it may have been the act of a mentally unstable person.

“There is no doubt that (it) appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, told a news conference on Thursday.

“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time,” Sjovold said.

Known to police previously over fears he had radicalised, Brathen has confessed to the killings in questioning, police said.

Four women and one man were killed and three people injured, and police said a bow and arrows and other undisclosed weapons were used before he was arrested.

“He has told us why he did it but we can’t say anything publicly about his motives at this stage,” prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told AFP on Thursday.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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