Initially reported as a traffic accident, a hijacked bus in Norway was the scene of three fatal stabbings last night. A man due to be deported from the country killed all three on board. The driver of the bus, who was in his 50s, a 19-year-old girl and a Swedish man were all victims of the knife-wielding hijacker. They were the only passengers on the bus. The suspect is apparently a South Sudanese asylum seeker. He was detained near the site of the fateful stabbings in the Aardal Reception – a holding center. He had been due to be moved today to Oslo, on an unchaperoned flight, from where he would have been deported.
The attacks occurred around 5:30 p.m. in a remote and mountainous area 55 miles from the nearest police patrol. Therefore, it was ambulance and fire crews who arrived first and a brave member of the ambulance team who apprehended the man. In a combined effort with firefighters, they managed to restrain him by spraying him with the powder from their fire extinguishers.
The police arrived after an hour and twenty minutes and immediately arrested the 31-year-old suspect and took him to Haukeland Hospital in Bergen. He is being held there under armed guard. VG, the Norwegian newspaper, said that the suspect was relatively unharmed, suffering only a few minor cuts. A spokeman for the Hordaland Police said that he may be moved again, when his medical assessment is completed.
The bus was travelling on a long distance route from the mountains of Valdres, an area known for its ski slopes, to the capital city, Oslo. It had reached the area of Sogn and Fjordane. This same route was the scene of another bus attack in 2003, when another bus driver was killed. In that case, an Ethiopian had already murdered an asylum seeker when he went on to take the life of the driver. Now, once again, a Norwegian bus has been hijacked and stabbings have left three people dead.
The emergency terror forces were scrambled from Oslo in helicopters, but turned back when news of the arrest came through. Forensic police stayed at the scene and worked throughout the night to collect evidence. So far, there are no clear motives for the attack and no suggestions that the alleged attacker knew the victims.
An eye witness, travelling on the same road in his car, stopped when he saw the bus overturned. He initially thought there had been an accident and went straight away to try to get people out. This man, known only as Lief, said he and his friend tried their best to wrench open the bus doors, but they were stuck. “It was impossible to open the doors,” Lief said. “Then we saw a dark-skinned person inside the bus.” When they saw that he was brandishing a knife, “we realized the situation was quite different.”
Norway went into a state of national shock and mourning when the most terrible massacre in its peacetime took place in July 2011. Anders Breivik, a violent gunman and right-wing exremist, went onto the island of Utoeya where teenagers were enjoying a summer camp, and killed 69. Before this, he had set off a car bomb in Oslo which killed 8. Brievik was a cold-hearted and unapologetic killer who had spent many years planning his rampage. In his chilling court testimony he spoke of shooting young people who were begging him for mercy. He disguised himself as a policeman to trick them into thinking he was a rescuer. He said he had deliberately entered into a program of “dehumanization” to do what he did. He was found to be sane and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
At that time, there was a fierce debate in peace-loving and tolerant Norway about the nature of democracy. It is likely that this latest incident will re-ignite that dialogue as Norway once again finds itself in the midst of a brutal killing of innocent people. Norway has the lowest prison population in the world and hosts the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the Global Peace Index initiated by Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea in 2005 Norway was ranked joint second with Denmark, after New Zealand . Norway has incredible natural resources, a renowned program of social welfare, a high standard of living and low unemployment. A country renowned for peace, it is not used to these violent episodes in its wild and beautiful countryside.
That an asylum seeker, who was due to fly alone without security, could allegedly carry out this crime will be much cause for grief, concern and sorrow in Norway today. The peace loving nation will once more have to come to terms with dreadful violence, after the stabbings and deaths of three innocent bus passengers.
Editorial by Kate Henderson