God’s wrath may have sparked attacks: writer

Christian Democrat leader Knut Arild Hareide has described as “unacceptable” a speech made by a writer at a party event last week suggesting the July 22nd terror attacks may have been God’s punishment for Norway’s poor diplomatic relations with Israel.

God's wrath may have sparked attacks: writer
Per Haakonsen (Photo: Scanpix)

Haakonsen made his comments at an open meeting organized last week by the local branch of the Christian Democrats in Sarpsborg, south-eastern Norway.

In his speech, Haakonsen said the dual attacks that left 77 dead, and an oil rig disaster from 1980 that claimed the lives of 123 people, could both be viewed as an expression of God’s wrath over Norway’s turbulent relationship with Israel, local newspaper Sarpsborgs Avis reports.

“It’s a completely unacceptable link to make, connecting last summer’s tragedy with the idea of punishment or warnings,” Knut Arild Hareide told news agency NTB.

“What happened at Utøya was completely meaningless. I’m going contact the local team in Sarpsborg to make it clear that these links are unacceptable.”

Haakonsen, a Christian conservative who espouses much-improved relations with Israel, gave his talk on the topic of “Anti-Semitic attitudes in Norway and among Christians”.

Speaking in Sarpsborg’s town hall, Haakonsen said: “The Utøya massacre can be viewed in the light of the increasingly inflamed relationship between Israel and Norway and the diplomatic controversies of the recent period.”

Haakonsen also noted that the 1980 Alexander Kielland platform disaster occurred shortly after Norway had refused to sell oil to Israel.

“It is thought-provoking that the two greatest accidents in Norway since the war can be tied to Norway’s relationship to Israel. Instinctively, we may ask: Could these accidents have been avoided if we’d had a more positive relationship with Israel?”

Hareide stressed that the views expressed by the writer were not representative of broader strands of opinion within the Christian Democratic Party.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. I can understand that these statements may hurt, but I also hope that many people see that this is outside the normal way of thinking.”

But not everybody in the party felt Haakonsen had spoken out of turn. Inger Marit Sverresen, the head of the party’s Sarpsborg branch, defended the author she had invited to speak.

“The way I understand it, he doesn’t mean this was a punishment for the young people at Utøya or their families, but that it was a warning to those who run the country, and others who distance themselves from God, that something even worse could be on the way. He wants to warn us,” Sverresen told Sarpsborgs Avis.

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Kongsberg attacker killed victims with ‘sharp object’

Norwegian police said Monday that the five victims of last week's attack were killed by a "sharp object" used by the suspect, not a bow and arrows.

The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident.
The Kongsberg attacker is said to have killed five people with sharp objects. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen on Flickr.

“At some point he discarded or lost his bow and arrows,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters.

He said that during the attack on Wednesday the suspect killed “five people with a sharp object both in private addresses and in public spaces”.

Police, who had previously said that the suspect Espen Andersen Brathen was armed with a bow and arrows and two other weapons, did not specify the nature of the sharp weapons, adding that they were still interviewing witnesses.

“Everything points to the victims being selected at random,” Omholt said.

According to the police, more than 10 people were also shot at with arrows at the start of the attack, but none were killed with this weapon.

READ MORE: Norway police query Kongsberg attacker’s Muslim faith

During police questioning, Brathen has confessed to the killings and to wounding three others.

The 37-year-old Danish citizen has announced publicly that he is a convert to Islam and initially police reported that there had been fears of radicalisation.

He is however being kept in a medical facility pending a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” Omholt added.

On Saturday, police announced the identities of the five victims, four women and one man: Andrea Meyer, 52, Hanne Merethe Englund, 56, Liv Berit Borge, 75, Gunnar Erling Sauve, 75 and Gun Marith Madsen, 78.