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Oslo Pride mass shooting could have been prevented, report finds

The chief of Norway’s security agency apologized after investigators concluded the suspected gunman could have been stopped before shooting more than 20 people at a Pride festival last year.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Norway’s domestic security agency could have prevented a mass shooting in a gay bar in Oslo during an LGBTQ+ Pride festival last year that killed two people and left 21 wounded, according to a committee report presented Thursday.

The committee investigated how the security agency, known as PST, and the Norwegian police handled the situation around and during the attack on June 25, 2022. It criticized the PST for not reacting to a warning from the Norwegian Intelligence Service stating that a threat was on the rise five days before the shooting.

“This is not the day for explanations and excuses. I will show responsibility by apologizing. The PST was unable to fend off the attack, and this report shows that we could have. We are sorry,” said PST Chief Beate Gangås, emphasizing that the report is taken seriously by her organization.

Shortly after the shooting, police detained the suspected gunman on the scene, a Norwegian Kurd named Zaniar Matapour who has lived in the Scandinavian country since 1991 after moving from Iran. Matapour has previously been charged with drug and assault offenses, and is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, according to a report from news outlet Avisa Oslo. Norwegian police have labeled the attack an “Islamist terror act."

Three others are suspected of involvement in the shooting case, including Arfan Bhatti, a Norwegian Islamist affiliated with the Islamic State group who is currently under arrest in Pakistan. Norwegian police have previously confirmed stopping a car with Matapour and Bhatti sitting in it.

Eleven days before the attack, Bhatti posted a picture of a burning Pride flag on his Facebook account, something that the PST should have detected after receiving the notice from Norway’s Intelligence Service, committee leader Pia Jansen said at Thursday’s press conference.

“If PST had discovered the flag, it is reasonable to believe that they would have notified the police,” she said.

Norwegian Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl also called the report “serious,” saying it points to weaknesses that must be addressed.

“The attack took lives and has hit the queer community in particular. It looks like a terrorist attack,” she said. Several parties have called Mehl to speak about the report's findings in front of the Norwegian parliament, but no date has been set.

Mehl has called up the PST chief and the director of police for a meeting on Friday to discuss a follow-up plan based on the full report that will be delivered by the end of the month, according to a press release from the Ministry of Justice.

Later Thursday, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre ensured that his government will follow up on the report. While supporting the PST chief’s apology, Støre does not yet see a reason for the federal government to do the same.

“I stand behind and understand that the apology has come, as the minister of justice has said. We will then go through the report with the intention of drawing lessons. If there is a need for us to take responsibility there, we will, of course, do so,” he said at a press conference.

A trial date for the suspected gunman has yet to be set.

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Categories / Criminal, Government, International

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