The attack is being viewed as an act of “extreme Islamist terror,” the head of the country’s domestic intelligence and security service, Roger Berg, said in a news conference. Berg said the suspect, a Norwegian citizen who was born in Iran, has suffered from mental health problems.
Police said the man, who has not been publicly named, was known to them from previous, relatively minor run-ins with the law. He had previously been accused of violence toward people close to him, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported.
Norwegian news media reported that the suspect immigrated from Iran with his family in the 1990s when he was 12.
The gunman opened fire at around 1 a.m. local time at the London Pub, which calls itself Oslo’s “gay headquarters since 1979,” and at a second bar and a fast-food restaurant, Norwegian media reported.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag,” said Olav Ronneberg, a journalist for NRK. “He picked up a weapon and started shooting.”
The suspect was arrested a short time later. Police said they believe he acted alone.
Oslo Pride leaders said Saturday they had canceled the parade and all related events on police advice and implored people who planned to participate to stay away. But a spontaneous march formed in the afternoon as crowds holding rainbow flags took to the city’s streets to pay tribute to the victims.
The two men who were killed were in their 50s and 60s, Police said Saturday. Ten people were seriously wounded; 11 others suffered minor injuries.
A spokeswoman for Oslo University Hospital told The Washington Post that the facility received seven patients, and one other person was sent to a hospital outside the Norwegian capital.
Authorities said police arrested the suspect near the scene of the attack and seized two weapons, including an automatic gun. “There is reason to think that this may be a hate crime,” police said, according to Reuters. “We are investigating whether the Pride was a target in itself or whether there are other motives.”
Police attorney Christian Hatlo said the terrorism charge was based on the number of casualties and the gunman’s apparent intention to create “serious fear.”
Berg said the suspect had been known to the country’s security service since 2015 as being “associated with an extremely Islamist environment,” Aftenposten reported. The security service was last in touch with him in May, Berg said.
Norwegian police, who do not routinely carry firearms, will now be given arms temporarily, Police Security Service head Benedicte Bjornland said. The service said it was investigating whether further attacks were planned, but added: “For now we have no indication of that.”
Norway’s King Harald said he and his family were “horrified” by the shooting and extended condolences to the victims and their families.
“We must stand together to defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for each other,” he said.
Sadiq Khan, mayor of the city whose name the pub bears, offered his condolences. “London stands with Oslo,” he wrote on Twitter. “#LoveIsLove and hate will never win.”
London Pub is located in the vicinity of the Storting, Norway’s legislature. It has hosted Pride-related celebrations for years and on Thursday held a drag show and a Pride-themed bingo session.
Norway has some of Europe’s more gay-friendly laws. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store this year marked the 50th anniversary of the country’s decriminalization of male same-sex relations by formally apologizing for its past treatment of the LGBTQ community.
“I apologize for the fact that the Norwegian authorities conveyed, through legislation, and also a range of other discriminatory practices, that gay love was not acceptable,” he said.
In July 2011, a Norwegian man killed 77 people by setting off a bomb outside the prime minister’s office in Oslo and opening fire at a youth summer camp organized by the left-leaning Labor Party. Norwegian lawmakers have since banned semiautomatic weapons such as the type of firearm used in that rampage.
A survivor of the 2011 massacre found himself fleeing bullets again early Saturday. Eivind Rindal told Norway’s TV2 that he had been standing at the outdoor terrace of a neighboring bar when he heard the first shots and saw a person pointing a weapon. He escaped from the area with a friend.
The experience revived memories of the mass shooting more than a decade earlier, Rindal said. But he added: “I will not let the fear of terror or violence define my life and freedom.”