Norway says bow-and-arrow attack appears to be an ‘act of terror’

Norway says bow-and-arrow attack appears to be an ‘act of terror’
Police carry out investigations in Kongsberg, Norway, on October 14, 2021, the day after a man armed with a bow and arrows killed 5 people before being arrested by police. (AFP)
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Updated 14 October 2021

Norway says bow-and-arrow attack appears to be an ‘act of terror’

Norway says bow-and-arrow attack appears to be an ‘act of terror’
  • Four women and a man died and two others were injured in the south-eastern town of Kongsberg in Norway’s deadliest attack in a decade
  • Images in the media showed a black arrow sticking out of a wall and what looked like competition-grade arrows lying on the ground
  • The attack brought immediate comparisons with a terror attack a decade and three months earlier that still ranks as Norway's worst peacetime act of slaughter

KONGSBERG/HELSINKI: The killing of five people in Norway in a bow-and-arrow attack appears to be an “act of terror,” the Norwegian security service said Thursday, with the suspect, a Danish Muslim convert, already on their radar over fears he had been radicalized.
Four women and a man died and two others were injured on Wednesday in the south-eastern town of Kongsberg in Norway’s deadliest attack in a decade.
“The events in Kongsberg currently appear to be an act of terror, but the investigation... will determine in closer detail what the acts were motivated by,” Norway’s intelligence service PST said in a statement.
“We’re talking about a convert to Islam,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters on Thursday, adding: “There were fears linked to radicalization previously.”
Saeverud said the 37-year-old suspect had confessed to the facts of the matter during questioning. Those who were killed during the attack were all aged between 50 and 70.
“We are investigating among other things to determine whether this was an act of terror,” Saeverud added.
Reports that linked him to radicalization pre-dated this year, Saeverud said, and police had followed up at the time. “We haven’t had any reports about him in 2021, but earlier,” he said.
“We’re relatively sure that he acted alone.”
PST also confirmed that the suspect was known to them but added they couldn’t give “further details about him.”
It aslo said they didn’t believe the threat level in the country had changed, describing it as “moderate.”
“Our evaluation is that what happened in Kongsberg Wednesday October 13 does not change the national threat assessment,” PST said.
Murder in Norway is rare.
It was the deadliest attack since far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011.
Since then, Norway has seen one other far-right attack, carried out by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who opened fire into a mosque.
On Thursday it was largely quiet in Kongsberg, a picturesque town of 25,000 people with wooden facades and the foliage changing color for the autumn.
Streets were almost empty with only a light police presence.
A few police officers stood outside a store where part of the attack took place. A glass door there was chipped by a shot.
Two candles flickered outside the town’s church.
The suspect was due to appear before a judge on Friday for a custody hearing.
He was undergoing a psychiatric examination on Thursday, the prosecutor said.
The victims have not yet been named publicly, but one of the wounded was an off-duty police officer who had been in a store.
Norwegian media questioned why it took police more than a half-hour to arrest the suspect after the first reports of the attack.
Police were informed of the attack at 6:13 p.m. (1613 GMT) and the suspect was arrested at 6:47 pm. He fired arrows at police, who responded with warning shots, Saeverud said.
Thomas Nilsen was at home when he heard the screams and said images of war came to mind.
“I thought it was Kabul,” he told AFP.
“I heard children screaming, barking and then the sound of a helicopter circling around my house,” Terje Kristiansen, another witness, said.
“I didn’t sleep much,” he added.
Images in the media showed a black arrow sticking out of a wall and what looked like competition-grade arrows lying on the ground.
Police said Thursday the suspect had also used other weapons, but provided no details.
“These events shake us,” said Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who stepped down Thursday, replaced by Jonas Gahr Store, whose Labour Party won recent parliamentary elections.
Store lamented the “horrible acts,” while Norway’s King Harald said he was “appalled by the tragic events.”
Norwegian police are not normally armed, but after the attack, the National Police Directorate ordered that officers be armed nationwide.
Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.
Breivik first set off a bomb in Oslo next to the building that housed the office of the prime minister, then went on a shooting spree at a summer camp for left-wing youth on the island of Utoya.
Several planned Daesh-linked attacks have also been foiled by security services.
Meanwhile, the attack brought immediate comparisons with a terror attack a decade and three months earlier that still ranks as Norway’s worst peacetime act of slaughter.
It was only in July that church bells rang across the country as people gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the day right-wing extremist Anders Breivik killed eight people by bombing government buildings in the capital, Oslo, and another 69 by opening fire at a youth camp on the island of Utoya.
On Thursday, flags flying at half-staff on all public buildings and candles flickering on the steps of Kongsberg Church recalled Breivik’s rampage and bore quiet witness to the still unfathomable events that unfolded over 30 minutes the night before.
“What no one thought could happen has happened. A horrific violent incident has hit our town,” the Kongsberg’s leaders said on the municipal website.
King Harald V said all of Norway sympathized “in grief and despair” with the relatives of the victims and the three people who were injured in the attack.
“Norway is a small country,” the 84-year-old figurehead monarch said. “When Kongsberg is now...hit hard, the rest of the nation stands with you. It is our hope that security will be restored so that fear does not become entrenched.”
Kongsberg is located in a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains some 66 kilometers (41 miles) southwest of Oslo.
“The witnesses are shocked,” Kongsberg Church parish priest Reidar AasboAasboe said as residents lit candles on the steps. “It is hard to take in. I don’t think anyone expects to have these kinds of experiences. But nobody could imagine this could happen here in our little town.”


Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country

Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country
Updated 9 sec ago

Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country

Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country
  • Petro Poroshenko, in power from 2014 to 2019, has made frequent public appearances since the war started
KYIV, Ukraine, May 28, 2022 Agence France Presse: The former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, said Saturday he was barred from leaving the country, accusing the government of breaking a so-called political cease-fire in place since Russia invaded.
Poroshenko, in power from 2014 to 2019, has made frequent public appearances since the war started, appearing on international television to offer commentary.
His European Solidarity party is the second biggest party in Ukraine’s parliament after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ruling party.
After Russia invaded, Ukraine’s parliament banned several pro-Russian parties, and allowed others to still operate under a so-called political cease-fire — a tacit understanding that all parties would put aside domestic political disagreements to unite against the war.
But on Saturday, Poroshenko’s office said he “was refused to cross the border of Ukraine,” accusing the government of violating the agreement.
“There is a risk that by this decision, the authorities have broken the ‘political cease-fire’ in place during the war... which one of the pillars of national unity in the face of to Russian aggression,” his office said.
Poroshenko was due to travel to a NATO parliamentary assembly meeting in Lithuania as part of the Ukrainian delegation, and had received official permission to travel.
He was due to meet in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and a group of European parliamentarians.
He was then to travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands for a summit bringing together European political parties.

China signs deal with Samoa as Australia vows Pacific Islands plan

China signs deal with Samoa as Australia vows Pacific Islands plan
Updated 56 min 55 sec ago

China signs deal with Samoa as Australia vows Pacific Islands plan

China signs deal with Samoa as Australia vows Pacific Islands plan
  • China is building on a security pact it recently signed with Solomon Islands

SYDNEY: China’s foreign minister signed a deal with Samoa on Saturday to strengthen diplomatic relations, while Australia’s new leader said he had a “comprehensive plan” for the Pacific, as Beijing and Canberra continued rival campaigns to woo the region.
China is building on a security pact it recently signed with Solomon Islands, which has alarmed the United States and its allies such as Australia as they fear a stepped-up military presence by Beijing. Australia’s new center-left government has made the Pacific Islands an early diplomatic priority.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, sworn in on Monday, said on Saturday his Labor government’s plan includes a defense training school, support for maritime security, a boost in aid and re-engaging the region on climate change.
“We will be proactive in the region, we want to engage,” he told reporters.
China’s Wang Yi, on a tour of the Pacific seeking a 10-nation deal on security and trade, finished a visit to Samoa, where he met Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa and signed documents including an “economic and technical cooperation agreement,” Samoa said in a statement.
“Samoa and the People’s Republic of China will continue to pursue greater collaboration that will deliver on joint interests and commitments,” it said.
Also Saturday, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said he had a “wonderful meeting” with Australia’s Penny Wong, who had visited days after taking office to show the new government’s attention to the Pacific Islands.
“Fiji is not anyone’s backyard — we are a part of a Pacific family,” Bainimarama wrote on Twitter, posting a picture of himself and Penny Wong shaking hands.
Bainimarama appeared to be taking a veiled swipe at Scott Morrison, the conservative prime minister ousted in an election last weekend, who once referred to the Pacific as Australia’s “backyard”.
Climate change, which Pacific Island nations consider an existential threat, had been a key issue in the election.
Australia’s Wong has said that Canberra will be a partner that does not come with strings attached, while China’s Wang expressed hope that Beijing’s ties with the Solomon Islands could be a regional model.
Wang was headed to Fiji, where he is expected to push for the regional deal in a meeting he is to host on Monday.


Ukraine: Russian advances could force retreat in part of east

Ukraine: Russian advances could force retreat in part of east
Updated 28 May 2022

Ukraine: Russian advances could force retreat in part of east

Ukraine: Russian advances could force retreat in part of east
  • A withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in full

KYIV/POPASNA, Ukraine: Ukrainian forces may have to retreat from their last pocket in the Luhansk region to avoid being captured, a Ukrainian official said, as Russian troops press an advance in the east that has shifted the momentum of the three-month-old war.
A withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in full. His troops have gained ground in the two areas collectively known as the Donbas while blasting some towns to wastelands.
Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said Russian troops had entered Sievierodonetsk, the largest Donbas city still held by Ukraine, after trying to trap Ukrainian forces there for days. Gaidai said 90 percent of buildings in the town were damaged.
“The Russians will not be able to capture Luhansk region in the coming days as analysts have predicted,” Gaidai said on Telegram, referring to the area including Sievierodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk, across the Siverskiy Donets River.
“We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves. However, it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat.”
Russia’s separatist proxies said they controlled Lyman, a railway hub west of Sievierodonetsk. Ukraine said Russia had captured most of Lyman but that its forces were blocking an advance to Sloviansk, to the southwest.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was protecting its land “as much as our current defense resources allow.” Ukraine’s military said it had repelled eight attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk on Friday, destroying tanks and armored vehicles.
“If the occupiers think that Lyman and Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian,” Zelensky said in an address.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said while Russian forces had begun direct assaults on built-up areas of Sievierodonetsk, they would likely struggle to take ground in the city itself.
“Russian forces have performed poorly in operations in built-up urban terrain throughout the war,” they said.
Russian troops advanced after piercing Ukrainian lines last week in the city of Popasna, south of Sievierodonetsk. Russian ground forces have captured several villages northwest of Popasna, Britain’s defense ministry said.
Russian forces shelled parts of Kharkiv on Thursday for the first time in days. Authorities said nine people were killed. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians in what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In the south, where Moscow has seized a swath of territory since the Feb. 24 invasion, including the port of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to impose permanent rule.
In the Kherson region in the south, Russian forces were fortifying defenses and shelling Ukraine-controlled areas, the region’s Ukrainian governor, Hennadiy Laguta, told media.
He said the humanitarian situation was critical in some areas and people were finding it very difficult to leave.
Police said 31 people had been evacuated on Friday from the Luhansk region, including 13 children.


WHO: Nearly 200 cases of monkeypox reported in more than 20 countries

 An employee of the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic shows a picture of a vaccine virus in Martinsried near Munich. (REUTERS)
An employee of the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic shows a picture of a vaccine virus in Martinsried near Munich. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 May 2022

WHO: Nearly 200 cases of monkeypox reported in more than 20 countries

 An employee of the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic shows a picture of a vaccine virus in Martinsried near Munich. (REUTERS)
  • Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of WHO’s smallpox department, said that “there is no need for mass vaccination,” explaining that monkeypox does not spread easily and typically requires skin-to-skin contact for transmission

LONDON: The World Health Organization says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the unusual disease, but described the epidemic as “containable” and proposed creating a stockpile to equitably share the limited vaccines and drugs available worldwide.
During a public briefing on Friday, the UN. health agency said there are still many unanswered questions about what triggered the unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa, but there is no evidence that any genetic changes in the virus are responsible.
“The first sequencing of the virus shows that the strain is not different from the strains we can find in endemic countries and (this outbreak) is probably due more to a change in human behavior,” said Dr. Sylvie Briand, WHO’s director of pandemic and epidemic diseases.
Earlier this week, a top adviser to WHO said the outbreak in Europe, US, Israel, Australia and beyond was likely linked to sex at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium. That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates, and outbreaks haven’t spilled across borders.
Although WHO said nearly 200 monkeypox cases have been reported, that seemed a likely undercount.

FASTFACT

No vaccines have been specifically developed against monkeypox, but WHO estimates that smallpox vaccines are about 85 percent effective.

On Friday, Spanish authorities said the number of cases there had risen to 98, including one woman, whose infection is “directly related” to a chain of transmission that had been previously limited to men, according to officials in the region of Madrid.
UK officials added 16 more cases to their monkeypox tally, making Britain’s total 106. And Portugal said its caseload jumped to 74 cases on Friday.
WHO’s Briand said that based on how past outbreaks of the disease in Africa have evolved, the current situation appeared “containable.”
Still, she said WHO expected to see more cases reported in the future, noting “we don’t know if we are just seeing the peak of the iceberg (or) if there are many more cases that are undetected in communities,” she said.
As countries including Britain, Germany, Canada and the US begin evaluating how smallpox vaccines might be used to curb the outbreak, WHO said its expert group was assessing the evidence and would provide guidance soon.
Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of WHO’s smallpox department, said that “there is no need for mass vaccination,” explaining that monkeypox does not spread easily and typically requires skin-to-skin contact for transmission.
No vaccines have been specifically developed against monkeypox, but WHO estimates that smallpox vaccines are about 85 percent effective.
She said countries with vaccine supplies could consider them for those at high risk of the disease, like close contacts of patients or health workers, but that monkeypox could mostly be controlled by isolating contacts and continued epidemiological investigations.
Given the limited global supply of smallpox vaccines, WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan said the agency would be working with its member countries to potentially develop a centrally controlled stockpile, similar to the ones it has helped manage to distribute during outbreaks of yellow fever, meningitis, and cholera in countries that can’t afford them.
“We’re talking about providing vaccines for a targeted vaccination campaign, for targeted therapeutics,” Ryan said.
“So the volumes don’t necessarily need to be big, but every country may need access to a small amount of vaccine.”
Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue.
People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.


UK PM Johnson faces new call to resign over ‘partygate’

UK PM Johnson faces new call to resign over ‘partygate’
Updated 27 May 2022

UK PM Johnson faces new call to resign over ‘partygate’

UK PM Johnson faces new call to resign over ‘partygate’
  • Johnson said after the report was issued that he took responsibility for the events but refused to quit
  • Other Conservative lawmakers this week have said they had submitted letters calling for a confidence vote in Johnson

LONDON: A Conservative lawmaker submitted a letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson on Friday and another quit a role as an assistant to Britain’s interior minister, putting new pressure on the prime minister over illegal parties at his Downing Street residence during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Bob Neill, the chair of parliament’s justice committee, said an official report on the parties issued on Wednesday showed a pattern of “unacceptable behavior” over months during Britain’s coronavirus crisis, and said he did not find Johnson’s explanations to be credible.
“Trust is the most important commodity in politics, but these events have undermined trust in not just the office of the prime minister, but in the political process itself,” Neill said in a statement. “To rebuild that trust and move on, a change in leadership is required.”
Johnson said after the report was issued that he took responsibility for the events but refused to quit.
Another Conservative lawmaker, Paul Holmes, said earlier on Friday he was resigning from his government role as parliamentary private secretary at the Home Office to focus on representing his constituents.
“It is clear to me that a deep mistrust in both the government and the Conservative Party has been created by these events ... It is distressing to me that this work on your behalf has been tarnished by the toxic culture that seemed to have permeated Number 10,” Holmes said in a statement.
Other Conservative lawmakers this week have said they had submitted letters calling for a confidence vote in Johnson to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee — which would be triggered if 54 such letters are written.
The letters are confidential, so only the chairman of the 1922 Committee knows how many have actually been submitted.
However, Holmes confirmed to Reuters he had not written a letter to call for Johnson to resign.