Norway ambulance hijacker ‘common criminal’, not motivated by terror

Norwegian authorities said Wednesday that a man who allegedly stole an ambulance and ran down four pedestrians in Oslo appears to be a common criminal rather than a terrorist.

Norway ambulance hijacker 'common criminal', not motivated by terror
The hijacked ambulance crashed into a gate outside a residential building on Tuesday. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB Scanpix / AFP

On Tuesday, the 32-year-old man slightly injured the pedestrians, including seven-month-old twins, in what police called a “deliberate” act.

He was arrested a short time later and identified as someone who already had a criminal record, and who some Norwegian media said had links to far-right groups.

But “it looks now like a common criminal case that does not concern us,” said Martin Bernsen, spokesman for the PST interior security service that handles anti-terrorist matters.

“At this point, we are not treating this as a terrorist matter,” Bernsen told AFP, though he noted that the investigation was at an early stage.

On Tuesday, police recovered a hunting rifle and an Uzi automatic pistol along with a large amount of narcotics in the stolen ambulance.

The suspect's lawyer, Øyvind Bergøy Pedersen, told the daily Verdens Gang that the man was just trying to escape from police and had not deliberately tried to injure onlookers.

The lawyer rejected reported links with far-right groups.

A 25-year-old woman who was with the man was arrested as well.

They had been involved in another accident, during which their vehicle overturned, police said 

When emergency services arrived at the scene, the man stole the ambulance while the woman fled.

The incident took place in a residential neighbourhood in northern Oslo, and while trying to get away, the man hit a woman with a pram carrying the twins.

They were taken to a hospital but did not suffer any severe injuries.

READ ALSO: Norwegian police in 'actions' after ambulance hijack


Norwegian police end emergency carrying of arms

The temporary arming of all police in Norway, ordered after an attack in Kongsberg left five dead, ended on Friday morning. 

Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo.
Police in Norway will no longer be armed after the temporary order was dropped. Pictured is a police van in Oslo. Photo by David Hall on Flickr.

The order for all police in Norway to be armed following an attack in Kongsberg last week was lifted on Friday morning. 

The police said in a statement Friday that, based on the information it had received from police security service PST, there was no longer any basis for maintaining the national armament order. 

“Norwegian police are basically unarmed in daily service, with firearms being stored in police vehicles, and police can be armed in connection with specific missions when needed. In that sense, we are now moving to a normal situation,” Tone Vangen, emergency preparedness director for the police, said in a statement

The police had been armed since last Wednesday following the incident in Kongsberg where Danish citizen Espen Andersen Bråthen killed five with an undisclosed sharp object and shot at police with a bow and arrow.

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

Police said earlier this week that the victims were chosen at random. The Danish citizen was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, which is necessary to determine whether Bråthen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

The 37-year-old had previously announced publicly that he had converted to Islam and police initially reported that there had been fears of radicalisation. 

But police later said that mental illness was to be considered the primary motive for the attack. 

 “As far as motive is concerned, illness remains the main hypothesis. And as far as conversion to Islam is concerned, this hypothesis is weakened,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt said to reporters earlier this week.