Immigrants harassed after Oslo bomb attack

Many immigrants faced harassment on the streets of Oslo in the hours before it emerged that a Norwegian far-right extremist had set off the car bomb outside government offices that killed eight people last July, a new report reveals.

Immigrants harassed after Oslo bomb attack
Photo: Berit Roald/Scanpix (File)

In one incident, a 21-year-old woman of Somali origin was advised to “leave the country” by schoolmates travelling on the same bus.

After getting off at the same stop, one girl pulled her braids so hard that she ripped them from her head, leaving her bruised and with a serious scalp wound, according to the report from the Norwegian Centre against Racism (NCR).

The non-governmental organization was tasked with compiling the report by a special government commission appointed to examine the events of July 22nd, when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in twin attacks in Oslo and Utøya.

For its preliminary report, NCR conducted 15 in-depth interviews with immigrants who said they were harassed by people who assumed the bomb attack had been carried out by foreign terrorists.

In all, NCR has been in contact with 70 people and is planning to continue interviewing more immigrants about their experiences on the bloodiest day in Norway since World War II. The group expects to present more extensive findings later this spring.

“A lot of people have told us they’ve heard of someone who was harassed but we have restricted ourselves to first-hand sources,” said NCR head Kari Helene Partapuoli.

Several of the incidents related by respondents were of a serious nature. In addition tophysical attacks, in which they were pushed, kicked or threatened with knives, many were subjected to verbal harassment or denied access to public transport.

Despite these reports of racism and violence, Norwegian police did not receive any reports of racially motivated attacks on the day of Breivik’s killing spree, or in the days immediately afterwards.  

Partapuoli said this could be partially explained by a general reluctance to talk about the incidents.

“Our informants said there was no question of them ringing the police and disrupting them that day,” she told newspaper Vårt Land.

The report also noted that many of the immigrants affected were disinclined to raise the issue at a time of such suffering for the country, when so many young people had lost their lives.  

But Zakaria Saalathi, head of Ung Muslim, a group representing young Muslims in Norway, said immigrants should make sure to report all cases of harassment.

“It’s important when we see that certain media call into question whether there really was harassment when nobody reported it,” he told newspaper Dagsavisen.

Stories from the report

An Iranian asylum seeker said an ethnic Norwegian man wearing shoes with steel toecaps kicked him four times on an Oslo bus. Nobody intervened to help him.

A man of Algerian origin said three drunken men pursued him after he got off a bus on his way home from work. One pulled out a knife and threatened him several times before he was stopped by one of his comrades.

A Congolese woman in her thirties said she and a colleague of Iraqi extraction approached the bomb site to see if they could help in any way. As they walked through the streets, they heard several people call after them with comments like: “What are you doing in Norway” and “Go back to where you came from”.

A woman of Moroccan origin was wearing a hijab when the bomb struck. As she walked on Storgata, a man said to her, in English “This is Al-Qaeda” and, in Norwegian, “Are you real Al-Qaeda Muslims”.

An ethnic Norwegian Muslim said he became frightened as he rode the tram and heard a group of men in their twenties who said they were heading to the city centre to “taste some Muslim blood”. He was worried what they would do if they knew he was a Muslim.

A Somali couple in their forties returned from their holidays on the day of the explosion. Arriving at their home they met a Norwegian couple with whom they had long had a good relationship. The woman helped them with their luggage but the man exclaimed: “Why are you helping these people who want to kill us?” The woman ignored her husband and continued to help.

A 23-year-old man with Kenyan roots said he was on his way home when a man in his forties shouted at him, calling him a “fucking terrorist”. Switching on his computer at home, he found the hatred had also begun to spread on Facebook. “I deleted 30 friends that day,” he said.

Two days after the terrorist attacks, two youths began throwing stones at three teenagers with immigrant backgrounds in Lillestrøm. Amid a tirade of racist abuse, one of the young men said: “Breivik should have killed all of you instead.”

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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.