January 28, 2022

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City Rattled by Bow-and-Arrow Killings Ponders Terrorism and Psychological Sickness

Town Rattled by Bow-and-Arrow Killings Ponders Terrorism and Mental Illness

KONGSBERG, Norway — Just a few years in the past, a nervous Danish man walked right into a mosque on this placid Scandinavian city, searching for assist in delivering a message to the world that he claimed to have obtained “from above.”

The mosque’s spokesman despatched him away. However he recalled the odd episode final week after the person, Espen Andersen Brathen, confessed to killing 5 individuals on Wednesday with weapons together with a bow and arrow, leaving many in Kongsberg questioning how his life had gone so terribly off target.

“I advised him we’re not a information company,” Oussama Tlili, who heads the one mosque in Kongsberg, stated of that encounter about 5 years in the past. “You can see the stress in his face and his physique, it made me uncomfortable, and I bear in mind considering, ‘This man is a threat.’”

The police stated initially that they believed Mr. Brathen, 37, might have been motivated by Islamic extremism and that he had dedicated acts of terrorism. The authorities pointed to the randomness of the targets and Mr. Brathen’s conversion to Islam.

However proof uncovered since appears to undermine that conclusion. Mr. Tlili says that his first impression of Mr. Brathen, on the time a current convert to Islam, instructed much less a person motivated by spiritual fervor than one with deep private troubles.

“Whereas it nonetheless stays to be seen if that is about terror or psychiatry,” stated Arne Christian Haugstoyl, the top of Norway’s counterterrorism unit on the Police Safety Service, “all alongside the way in which now we have seen his psychological issues, and that has been our major fear, not his ideology.”

On this ordinarily quiet city, remnants of the crime scene wove an eerie seam by means of the in any other case ordered streets of clapboard homes: a crack within the glass storefront of the Coop grocery store, the place Mr. Brathen started his assault; pink police tape that traced his path by means of the city; and bouquets of flowers piled in entrance of doorways the place he entered and killed.

Norwegians aren’t strangers to terrorism. In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who later modified his identify to Fjotolf Hansen, killed 77 individuals, a lot of them youngsters, when he went on a taking pictures rampage on an island close to Oslo.

However within the bow-and-arrow killings, early headlines a few terrorist assault gave solution to a special story: The police introduced Friday in a information convention that Mr. Brathen had been transferred to a medical facility for a psychiatric analysis. Additionally they stated interrogations of Mr. Brathen had been suspended till his psychological state was decided.

“He’s very drained, and he isn’t effectively, mentally,” stated Per Thomas Omholt, a police inspector in Kongsberg.

Each the native police and Kongsberg’s district psychiatric care middle are being investigated for attainable lapses of their dealings with Mr. Brathen throughout his obvious emotional collapse.

Sunday was a day of remembrance for this small city, the place many have been shaken by the murders.

Some laid flowers or lit candles at a makeshift memorial within the middle of city. Paper hearts with messages studded the bridge main throughout the river to the city’s solely church, the place an extended line of individuals waited to attend a memorial service for the victims.

“My hometown, it’s shaking,” stated Borghild Glosimot, 52, who was born and raised right here. “It’s a disgrace that that is what brings it into the limelight.”

Members of the Norwegian royal household attended the service, as did members of the native mosque.

Kari Elizabeth Hoff, 82, a Kongsberg resident, was consuming dinner on Wednesday when she heard an unnerving scream. Quickly after, a good friend from the ground under began banging on Ms. Hoff’s door, saying her neighbors had been killed.

“I knew then that we have been instantly in the midst of a conflict right here,” Ms. Hoff stated. “That might have been me, in my residence, or in that store.”

The day after the assault, shocked and unsure, Ms. Hoff walked to the church. “I’m not a spiritual particular person,” she stated, preventing again tears. “however I wanted to only sit in a nook someplace and say, ‘Thanks for my life.’”

Mr. Brathen, the son of a Norwegian father and Danish mom, has lived in Kongsberg most of his life and attended junior highschool right here. Interviews with pals and acquaintances paint an image of a soft-spoken, amicable younger man who took a sudden disturbing flip.

“He was extremely form, not attention-seeking,” stated a 30-year-old girl who met him round 2009 and used to see him typically at events. “He was by no means speaking about politics or faith,” she stated. He was extra eager about skateboarding, hip-hop and smoking hash, she stated. The lady spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of her household is near one of many victims and feared that discussing Mr. Brathen would disrupt their lives.

However in recent times, when she would run into him he at all times regarded unsettled, she stated: His eyes have been evasive, and his sentences would path off. The final she noticed him was the Saturday earlier than the assault, as she walked residence from a grocery retailer. He was in entrance of her when he instantly began appearing paranoid, checking franticly over his shoulder.

“It was so apparent to anybody who noticed him on the road, even those that didn’t know, that he wanted assist,” she stated.

Mr. Brathen first appeared in police experiences in 2012 for petty crimes like drug possession and for breaking and coming into into a neighborhood mining museum.

Not lengthy after, Mr. Brathen transformed to Islam and shortly discovered his solution to the mosque at Kongsberg’s Islamic Cultural Middle, the place he requested Mr. Tlili for assist in delivering his divine messages.

“This man, he didn’t know something about Islam,” stated Mr. Tlili, including that he didn’t even know the way to wash his palms correctly earlier than afternoon prayer.

In his 14 years of main the mosque, Mr. Tlili stated he had helped a number of native Norwegians convert. However he was suspicious of Mr. Brathen’s professed enthusiasm for Islam.

“He was in no way eager about talking about faith,” he stated. Mr. Tlili suspected that, even then, Mr. Brathen might have been in poor health. “Trying again, I imagine it was a cry for assist,” he stated.

Over the subsequent few weeks, Mr. Tlili stated, Mr. Brathen returned two extra instances to request assist delivering his “message.” After which he stopped. The subsequent time Mr. Tlili noticed him was final week, on nationwide tv.

Across the identical time Mr. Brathen entered the mosque in 2015, Norway’s Police Safety Service discovered that he had transformed to Islam and that he appeared to pose a risk, in line with a spokesman for the safety service, Martin Berntsen.

In 2017, federal brokers turned alarmed after Mr. Brathen posted a video on YouTube by which he stated he was a “messenger.” The subsequent yr they warned the district psychiatric middle that Mr. Brathen’s psychological state “lowered his threshold for violence,” Mr. Berntsen stated.

In response to native officers, Mr. Brathen underwent psychiatric examinations in 2010 and 2018.

The Kongsberg district psychiatric middle, the place Mr. Brathen was handled no less than as soon as, stated in a press release that it was working to “flip each stone to resolve what has occurred, what our function has been and whether or not there may be something we might have finished higher.”

Final yr, a choose imposed a six-month restraining order on Mr. Brathen at his mother and father’ request after he refused to depart their home, threatened to kill his father and left a revolver on their couch.

Silje Limstrand, 22, and Gudoon Hersi, 21, have been roommates who lived throughout the road from Mr. Brathen till two weeks in the past. They described him as a brooding, unstable presence who typically stored to himself and whose habits grew extra disturbing over time.

“In the future he could be making creepy feedback about my hair or my costume and the subsequent he would stroll proper by me with utterly empty eyes,” stated Ms. Limstrand, a kindergarten trainer.

Mr. Brathen spewed racist remarks at Ms. Hersi, who’s Black. And, she recalled, “he had unusual habits, like opening all of the mailboxes on the street, or strolling to and from the Coop three to 4 instances in an hour.”

Ms. Hersi stated that she had tried to alert her neighbors, however that her issues went unheeded. Then she heard about final week’s assault.

“I knew instantly that it was him,” she stated.

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