At least two people were killed and at least 21 were injured in a rare mass shooting in Norway after a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin shot up a gay bar in Oslo. The city’s Pride parade, which was scheduled for Saturday, but has been cancelled on the recommendation of police after the shooting. Eight of the injured are in serious to life-threatening condition in hospital, according to Norway’s broadcaster NRK.
A police spokesman said that it was unclear if the shooting was tied to Pride events leading up to Saturday’s parade. “Police are in contact with the organizers of the Pride event this Saturday,” spokesman Tore Barstad said.
The shooting began at around 1 a.m. local time in the London Pub, which calls itself “the largest gay and lesbian venue in Oslo” on its website. The shooter then moved to the Herr Nilsen jazz club next door and shot random rounds at a takeaway establishment on the same street. “The scene was chaotic, it was a warm evening and a lot of people were outside, so there were people running everywhere,” a police official told CNN.
Bili Blum-Jansen, who was in the London Pub, reportedly said he hid in the basement along with 80 to 100 other people to escape the gunfire.
“Many called their partners and family, it felt almost as if they were saying goodbye. Others helped calm down those who were extremely terrified,” he told TV2. “I had a bit of panic and thought that if the shooter or shooters were to arrive, we’d all be dead. There was no way out.”
“There is reason to think that this may be a hate crime,” police said in a press conference later on Saturday.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere called the shooting “a terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
Several of the injured people were hit by shards of flying glass caused by the shooting. Witnesses told local media that the shooter walked into the popular bar with a bag from which he pulled a gun and started shooting. Police apprehended the shooter and sequestered at least two weapons.
Police later said the suspect was known to police and will be charged with terrorism, murder and attempted murder. His name has not been released.
Oslo Pride issued a statement on their Facebook page calling off the parade, asking everyone who had planned to participate in or watch the parade not to attend. “We are shocked and saddened by the tragic incident, and we are following it closely,” the group said in a Facebook statement. “Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.”
“We will soon be proud and visible again, but today, we will share our Pride celebrations from home,” a statement on the Oslo Pride website said.
Despite that, hundreds of people marched near the scene later in the day, shouting: “We’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear!”
“I think it’s fantastic that this march is taking place, otherwise he would have won,” one woman told AFP.