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TERRORISM

Norway police query Kongsberg attacker’s Muslim faith

Norwegian police on Saturday cast doubt on the narrative that the perpetrator of an attack that left five people dead was a serious convert to Islam.

Pictured is a close up of police car in Vestfold. Photo by Vestfold politidistrikt hundepatrulje on Flickr.
Norwegian police cast doubt on Muslim faith of bow-and-arrow killer as he undergoes psychiatric evaluation. Pictured is a close up of police car in Vestfold. Photo by Vestfold politidistrikt hundepatrulje on Flickr.

Police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters the ongoing investigations had reinforced the idea that the suspect, Danish citizen Espen Andersen Brathen who has admitted the killings, had mental health issues.

READ ALSO: LATEST: Kongsberg bow and arrow attack may have been prompted by mental illness

However, “the thinking is that he did not take (the conversion) very seriously. By this we mean that he did not follow or practise the traditions that are common in this culture and religion,” the inspector said.

Website Nettavisen has published a video Brathen allegedly posted to social media in 2017, in which he issued a “warning” and declared his Muslim faith.

Four women and one man died, and three others were injured on Wednesday during the assault in the south-eastern town of Kongsberg.

It was Norway’s deadliest attack in a decade.

Brathen, 37, has been detained in a medical facility pending psychiatric evaluation.

“All the indications are that he chose his victims at random” and acted alone, Omholt said, describing Brathen as “not very social”.

The police also named the dead: Andrea Meyer, 52, Hanne Merethe Englund, 56, Liv Berit Borge, 75, Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75 and Gun Marith Madsen, 78.

The three people injured, who have not been identified, have all been released from hospital.

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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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