Horror on Oslo Pride Day as gunman goes wild in gay bar
- Shooter kills two, injures 21
- Partygoers hide in the basement of an Oslo bar
- Official Pride parade canceled after tragedy
- The assessment of the terrorist threat carried to the highest level
- Pride rainbow ‘colored black’, says government minister
OSLO, June 25 (Reuters) – Terrified revelers at an Oslo gay bar hid in a basement and desperately called their loved ones as a gunman rampaged, killing two people and injuring 21 on the day where the city was to celebrate its anniversary. Pride Parade.
Authorities said the suspect, a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent, is believed to be a radicalized Islamist with a history of mental illness who has been known to intelligence services since 2015. read more
The suspect will undergo a psychiatric evaluation in the coming days as part of the investigation, police said.
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The attack took place in the early hours of Saturday, with victims shot inside and outside the London Pub, a longtime hub of Oslo’s LGBTQ scene, as well as in surrounding streets and in another bar in the center of the Norwegian capital.
The deceased were two men in their 50s and 60s, police said.
“Everything points to an attack by an Islamist extremist,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference.
“We don’t know (yet) if the queer community was the intended target, but we know they are a victim.”
Bili Blum-Jansen, who was at the London Pub, said he fled to the basement to escape the hail of bullets and hid there with 80 to 100 other people.
“Many called their partners and family, it was almost like saying goodbye. Others helped calm those who were extremely terrified,” he told TV2.
“I was a bit panicked and thought if the shooter(s) came we would all be dead. There was no way out.”
Rainbow flags symbolizing the Pride community were prominently displayed in Oslo this week, but the parade scheduled for Saturday was canceled on the advice of police.
“Last night the rainbow was black in color,” said Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway‘s Minister for Culture and Equality and herself a prominent LGBTQ rights activist.
“Cry and Scream”
As the official parade was cancelled, several thousand people staged a spontaneous march through central Oslo, waving rainbow flags and chanting in English: “We’re here, we’re queer, we won’t gone.”
Norway‘s Crown Prince Haakon, his wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit and their youngest child Prince Sverre Magnus, 16, then joined the Prime Minister and other officials in laying red and white roses near the London Pub.
“We have to protect the right in Norway to love whoever we want,” Haakon told reporters.
The suspect was arrested minutes after engaging in the shooting, according to police, who said they believe he acted alone. Two weapons, including a fully automatic pistol, were recovered from the crime scene, they added.
The man refused to be questioned by the police, his lawyer John Christian Elden told public broadcaster NRK.
Witnesses described the chaos that erupted inside and outside the London Pub, which has been open since 1979.
“A lot of people were crying and screaming, the injured were screaming, people were distressed and scared – very, very scared,” said Marcus Nybakken, 46, who had left the bar shortly before the shooting and returned later to help.
“My first thought was that Pride was the target, so that’s scary.”
NRK TV reporter Olav Roenneberg said he was in the area at the time and saw a man come up with a bag, pull out a gun and start shooting: “Then I I saw windows breaking and I knew I had to take cover.”
European leaders condemned the shooting, as did the White House.
“I am shocked by the heinous attack on innocent people in Oslo,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted.
“No one should have to fear for their life or well-being just for who they are.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, writing in French and Norwegian on his official Twitter account, expressed sympathy. “We are stronger against hate if we are united,” he said.
John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the Biden administration has been in contact with Norway to offer condolences and support.
“We are all horrified by the mass shooting in Oslo today targeting the LGBTQI+ community there and our thoughts are obviously with all the families of the victims, the people of Norway who are a wonderful ally, and of course the community. LGBTQI+ there and around the world,” he said.
Norwegian security authorities raised the country’s terrorism threat assessment to its highest level after the attack, in which 21 people were also injured, 10 of them seriously.
Police, who are normally unarmed, will carry arms until further notice, he said.
Other major events in the capital went ahead as planned on Saturday, police and organizers said, including a large outdoor music festival and a soccer match between the Norway and New Zealand women’s teams.
The shooting took place just months after Norway marked the 50th anniversary of the abolition of a law that criminalized gay sex.
The Nordic nation of 5.4 million has a lower crime rate than many Western countries, although it has seen hate-motivated shootings, including when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011.
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Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, additional reporting by Andrea Shalal aboard Air Force One, Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Pravin Char, Frank Jack Daniel, Peter Graff
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