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LATEST: Kongsberg attack may have been prompted by mental illness

An attack in Norway that left five people dead this week appears to have been motivated by mental illness, authorities indicated Friday, as the perpetrator was ordered to be kept in a medical facility.

The Kongsberg attack has been handed over to the health services amid speculation that he is mentally ill.
The Kongsberg attack has been handed over to the health services amid speculation that he is mentally ill. Pictured is a close up of police car in Vestfold. Photo by Vestfold politidistrikt hundepatrulje on Flickr.

“The strongest hypothesis after the first days of the investigation is that illness is in the background,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters two days after the attack.

On Friday a Norwegian court also ordered the man who confessed to killing five people in an attack to be held in detention in a medical facility, as questions mounted about his mental health.

Espen Andersen Brathen, a Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalised, will be held for an initial period of four weeks, the first two in total isolation, judge Ann Mikalsen ruled.

 A full psychiatric evaluation — which can take several months, according to the prosecutor — is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.

“This indicates that things are not exactly as they should be,” his lawyer, Fredrik Neumann said referring to his client’s mental health.

“A complete judicial assessment will clarify that,” he told Norwegian daily VG.

Brathen was not present in court on Friday, having not contested the detention request. While authorities have said the attack appeared to be an act of terror, they have not ruled out that it may have been the act of a mentally unstable person.

“There is no doubt that (it) appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, told a news conference on Thursday.

“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time,” Sjovold said.

Known to police previously over fears he had radicalised, Brathen has confessed to the killings in questioning, police said.

Four women and one man were killed and three people injured, and police said a bow and arrows and other undisclosed weapons were used before he was arrested.

“He has told us why he did it but we can’t say anything publicly about his motives at this stage,” prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told AFP on Thursday.

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KONGSBERG ATTACK

Norwegian police say 24 were targeted in Kongsberg attack

Norwegian police said on Wednesday that 24 people were now being treated as victims of a bow and arrow attack earlier this month in which five people were killed.

Police in Norway say 24 people were targeted in an attack in Kongsberg on October 13th. 5 were killed. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident.
Police in Norway say 24 people were targeted in an attack in Kongsberg on October 13th. 5 were killed. Pictured is police tape from a separate incident. Photo by Søren Storm Hansen on Flickr.

A man attacked members of the public in the town of Kongsberg west of Oslo on October 13th, firing arrows and attacking people at random in their homes.

Main suspect Espen Andersen Bråthen, a Dane living in Kongsberg, was arrested at the scene and is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, with police believing mental illness is behind the attack.

“So far we have 24 victims in the case,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told a press conference, giving a total figure for the first time. 

He said the number included the five killed, three who were injured and 16 others who had been “subjected to different events”.

“These are typically attempted murders and attempted woundings, mostly those who were shot at with a bow and arrow,” he said, stressing that the number could change.

Omholt said police were “keeping the door open” on the motive for the attack.

Bråthen had previously said on social media he had converted to Islam, leading to speculation it was a jihadist attack.

But the investigation had “further weakened” the jihadist hypothesis, Omholt said, adding that it was unclear whether or not he had really converted to Islam.

READ ALSO: Norwegian police end emergency carrying of arms

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