OSLO, Norway –
Norway’s prime minister and members of the royal family joined mourners at a memorial service Sunday at Oslo Cathedral for the victims of a shooting attack as the capital held its annual LGBTQ Pride festival.
A gunman opened fire in central Oslo’s nightlife district early Saturday, killing two people — a man in his 50s and and another in his 60s — and wounding more than 20 in what the Norwegian security service called an “Islamist terror act.”
A suspect, identified as a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, is in custody. The capital’s Pride parade, was scheduled to take place Saturday but was canceled.
The crime scene included the London Pub, a bar that is popular with the city’s LGBTQ community. Police investigators said it was unclear whether hatred of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity motivated the attack.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a speech during Sunday’s memorial service that “the shooting in the night hours put an end to the Pride parade, but it did not stop the fight and the efforts to fight discrimination, prejudice and hatred.”
He also addressed Norway’s Muslim community.
“I know how many of you felt when it turned out that the perpetrator belonged to the Islamic community. Many of you experienced fear and unrest. You should know this: We stand together, we are one community and we are responsible for the community together,” Gahr Stoere said during the church service, which was also attended by Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
Norwegian media have identified the suspect as Oslo resident Zaniar Matapour, who arrived in Norway with his family from a Kurdish part of Iran in the 1990s.
Matapour had a prior criminal record that included a narcotics offense and a weapons offense for carrying a knife. Investigators said they seized two weapons after Saturday’s shootings: a handgun and an automatic weapon.
The Norwegian domestic security agency, known by its Norwegian acronym PST, said Saturday it first became aware of the suspect in 2015 and later grew concerned he had become radicalized and was part of an unspecified Islamist network.
On Sunday, Norwegian media outlets reported that Matapour allegedly was in close contact with an Islamic extremist living in Norway whom Norwegian police had been aware of for a long time.
The extremist, identified as Arfan Bhatti, was known partly for his strong anti-gay views, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said.
Matapour was being held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, based on the number of people targeted at multiple locations.
His defense lawyer, John Christian Elden, who previously represented Bhatti, said his client has not given any explanation for his actions.
“It is very unclear if there is any motive,” Elden told Norwegian newspaper VG. “It also means that one should be very careful to speculate on the reasons why this (shooting) happened.”
Matapour’s questioning by police was cut short Sunday after he refused to have his statement recorded and videotaped, which is standard police practice. He fears police would edit the recordings and manipulate his words d by police against him, Elden said.
“So far, police have insisted on recording the interrogation on audio and video,” Elden told VG. “My client has refused to be taken on audio and video, unless this was to be sent publicly in its entirety.”