Death and despair as gunman opens fire at Oslo gay bar

A rainbow flag and flowers are placed in tribute on a sidewalk following a shooting at a nightclub in central Oslo, Norway, June 25, 2022. Terje Pedersen/NTB/via REUTERS

Terrified revelers at an Oslo gay bar hid in a basement and desperately called their loved ones as a gunman rampaged, killing two and injuring more than 20 on the day the city was due to mark its annual pride parade.

The attack took place in the early hours of Saturday, with victims shot inside and outside the London Pub, a longtime hub of Oslo’s LGBTQ scene, as well as in surrounding streets and in another bar in the center of the Norwegian capital.

Bili Blum-Jansen, who was at the London Pub, said he fled to the basement to escape the hail of bullets and hid there with 80 to 100 other people.

“Many called their partners and family, it was almost like saying goodbye. Others helped calm those who were extremely terrified,” he told TV2.

“I was a bit panicked and thought if the shooter(s) came we would all be dead. There was no way out.”

A suspect, a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent, was arrested minutes after engaging in the shooting, according to police who said they believe he acted alone. Two weapons, including a fully automatic pistol, were recovered from the crime scene, they added.

“There are reasons to believe this may be a hate crime,” police said.

“We are investigating whether the Pride was a target per se or if there are other motives.”

Other witnesses described the chaos that erupted inside and outside the London Pub, which has been open since 1979.

“A lot of people were crying and screaming, the injured were screaming, people were distressed and scared – very, very scared,” said Marcus Nybakken, 46, who had left the bar shortly before the shooting and returned later to help.

A rainbow flag and flowers are placed in tribute on a sidewalk following a shooting at a nightclub in central Oslo, Norway, June 25, 2022. Terje Pedersen/NTB/via REUTERS

“My first thought was that Pride was the target, so that’s scary.”

Journalist Olav Roenneberg of public broadcaster NRK said he was in the area at the time and saw a man come with a bag, pull out a gun and start shooting: “Then I saw windows breaking and I realized that I had to take shelter.”

Authorities said the attack was also being investigated as a possible act of terrorism and said they were not ruling out mental illness as a factor. It is not known exactly where the two people were killed in the London Pub area.

NORWEGIAN POLICE WILL CARRY FIREARMS

Norwegian police, who are normally unarmed, will now carry arms until further notice as a precaution, National Chief Benedicte Bjoernland said. The Norwegian intelligence service PST added that it was investigating the possibility of further attacks. “As of now, we have no guidance on this,” PST said.

Oslo Pride organizers canceled Saturday’s parade, citing advice from police. “We will soon be proud and visible again, but today we will celebrate Pride celebrations at home,” they said.

Yet several thousand people began what appeared to be a spontaneous march through central Oslo, waving rainbow flags and chanting in English: “We are here, we are queer, we will not disappear”.

King Harald of Norway said he and the royal family were devastated by the attack, which police said also left 10 seriously injured and 11 slightly injured.

“We must stand together and defend our values: freedom, diversity and respect for others,” added the 85-year-old monarch.

The shooting took place just months after Norway marked the 50th anniversary of the abolition of a law that criminalized gay sex. The suspect was known to the authorities, in particular for violence of a less serious nature, said the police.

The Nordic nation of 5.4 million has a lower crime rate than many Western countries, although it has seen hate-motivated shootings, including when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011.

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