KONGSBERG, Norway — Just a few years in the past, a nervous Danish man walked right into a mosque on this placid Scandinavian city, searching for assist in delivering a message to the world that he claimed to have acquired “from above.”
The mosque’s spokesman despatched him away. However he recalled the odd episode final week after the person, Espen Andersen Brathen, confessed to killing 5 folks on Wednesday with weapons together with a bow and arrow, leaving many in Kongsberg questioning how his life had gone so terribly off track.
“I advised him we’re not a information company,” Oussama Tlili, who heads the one mosque in Kongsberg, stated of that encounter about 5 years in the past. “You may see the stress in his face and his physique, it made me uncomfortable, and I keep in mind pondering, ‘This man is a danger.’”
The police stated initially that they believed Mr. Brathen, 37, could have been motivated by Islamic extremism and that he had dedicated acts of terrorism. The authorities pointed to the randomness of the targets and Mr. Brathen’s conversion to Islam.
However proof uncovered since appears to undermine that conclusion. Mr. Tlili says that his first impression of Mr. Brathen, on the time a current convert to Islam, recommended much less a person motivated by spiritual fervor than one with deep private troubles.
“Whereas it nonetheless stays to be seen if that is about terror or psychiatry,” stated Arne Christian Haugstoyl, the top of Norway’s counterterrorism unit on the Police Safety Service, “all alongside the way in which now we have seen his psychological issues, and that has been our important fear, not his ideology.”
On this ordinarily quiet city, remnants of the crime scene wove an eerie seam by the in any other case ordered streets of clapboard homes: a crack within the glass storefront of the Coop grocery store, the place Mr. Brathen started his assault; pink police tape that traced his path by the city; and bouquets of flowers piled in entrance of doorways the place he entered and killed.
Norwegians usually are not strangers to terrorism. In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who later modified his title to Fjotolf Hansen, killed 77 folks, lots of them kids, when he went on a taking pictures rampage on an island close to Oslo.
However within the bow-and-arrow killings, early headlines a couple of terrorist assault gave approach to a unique story: The police introduced Friday in a information convention that Mr. Brathen had been transferred to a medical facility for a psychiatric analysis. In addition they stated interrogations of Mr. Brathen had been suspended till his psychological state was decided.
“He’s very drained, and he isn’t properly, mentally,” stated Per Thomas Omholt, a police inspector in Kongsberg.
Each the native police and Kongsberg’s district psychiatric care heart are being investigated for potential lapses of their dealings with Mr. Brathen throughout his obvious emotional collapse.
Sunday was a day of remembrance for this small city, the place many have been shaken by the murders.
Some laid flowers or lit candles at a makeshift memorial within the heart of city. Paper hearts with messages studded the bridge main throughout the river to the city’s solely church, the place a protracted line of individuals waited to attend a memorial service for the victims.
“My hometown, it’s shaking,” stated Borghild Glosimot, 52, who was born and raised right here. “It’s a disgrace that that is what brings it into the limelight.”
Members of the Norwegian royal household attended the service, as did members of the native mosque.
Kari Elizabeth Hoff, 82, a Kongsberg resident, was consuming dinner on Wednesday when she heard an unnerving scream. Quickly after, a good friend from the ground under began banging on Ms. Hoff’s door, saying her neighbors had been killed.
“I knew then that we had been all of the sudden in the midst of a conflict right here,” Ms. Hoff stated. “That would have been me, in my dwelling, or in that store.”
The day after the assault, shocked and unsure, Ms. Hoff walked to the church. “I’m not a spiritual individual,” she stated, combating again tears, “however I wanted to only sit in a nook someplace and say, ‘Thanks for my life.’”
Mr. Brathen, the son of a Norwegian father and Danish mom, has lived in Kongsberg most of his life and attended junior highschool right here. Interviews with mates and acquaintances paint an image of a soft-spoken, amicable younger man who took a sudden disturbing flip.
“He was extremely type, not attention-seeking,” stated a 30-year-old girl who met him round 2009 and used to see him usually at events. “He was by no means speaking about politics or faith,” she stated. He was extra keen on skateboarding, hip-hop and smoking hash, she stated. The lady spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of her household is near one of many victims and feared that discussing Mr. Brathen would disrupt their lives.
However in recent times, when she would run into him he all the time seemed unsettled, she stated: His eyes had been evasive, and his sentences would path off. The final she noticed him was the Saturday earlier than the assault, as she walked dwelling from a grocery retailer. He was in entrance of her when he all of the sudden began appearing paranoid, checking franticly over his shoulder.
“It was so apparent to anybody who noticed him on the road, even those that didn’t know, that he wanted assist,” she stated.
Mr. Brathen first appeared in police stories in 2012 for petty crimes like drug possession and for breaking and getting into into an area mining museum.
Not lengthy after, Mr. Brathen transformed to Islam and shortly discovered his approach to the mosque at Kongsberg’s Islamic Cultural Middle, the place he requested Mr. Tlili for assist in delivering his divine messages.
“This man, he didn’t know something about Islam,” stated Mr. Tlili, including that he didn’t even know find out how to wash his fingers correctly earlier than afternoon prayer.
In his 14 years of main the mosque, Mr. Tlili stated he had helped a number of native Norwegians convert. However he was suspicious of Mr. Brathen’s professed enthusiasm for Islam.
“He was by no means keen on talking about faith,” he stated. Mr. Tlili suspected that, even then, Mr. Brathen could have been ailing. “Trying again, I imagine it was a cry for assist,” he stated.
Over the following few weeks, Mr. Tlili stated, Mr. Brathen returned two extra instances to request assist delivering his “message.” After which he stopped. The following time Mr. Tlili noticed him was final week, on nationwide tv.
Across the identical time Mr. Brathen entered the mosque in 2015, Norway’s Police Safety Service discovered that he had transformed to Islam and that he appeared to pose a menace, in keeping with a spokesman for the safety service, Martin Berntsen.
In 2017, federal brokers turned alarmed after Mr. Brathen posted a video on YouTube during which he stated he was a “messenger.” The following 12 months they warned the district psychiatric heart that Mr. Brathen’s psychological state “lowered his threshold for violence,” Mr. Berntsen stated.
In keeping with native officers, Mr. Brathen underwent psychiatric examinations in 2010 and 2018.
The Kongsberg district psychiatric heart, the place Mr. Brathen was handled a minimum of as soon as, stated in an announcement that it was working to “flip each stone to resolve what has occurred, what our function has been and whether or not there’s something we may have executed higher.”
Final 12 months, a decide imposed a six-month restraining order on Mr. Brathen at his dad and mom’ request after he refused to depart their home, threatened to kill his father and left a revolver on their couch.
Silje Limstrand, 22, and Gudoon Hersi, 21, had been roommates who lived throughout the road from Mr. Brathen till two weeks in the past. They described him as a brooding, unstable presence who usually stored to himself and whose conduct grew extra disturbing over time.
“Someday he could be making creepy feedback about my hair or my gown and the following he would stroll proper by me with utterly empty eyes,” stated Ms. Limstrand, a kindergarten trainer.
Mr. Brathen spewed racist remarks at Ms. Hersi, who’s Black. And, she recalled, “he had unusual habits, like opening all of the mailboxes on the highway, or strolling to and from the Coop three to 4 instances in an hour.”
Ms. Hersi stated that she had tried to alert her neighbors, however that her considerations went unheeded. Then she heard about final week’s assault.
“I knew instantly that it was him,” she stated.