Norway mosque shooting could be 'terror act', gunman held

London, Aug 12 (IANS) A shooting at a mosque on the outskirts of Oslo is being investigated as a possible act of terror and the antecedents of the attacker, who was overpowered at the spot and arrested, are being probed, as per Norwegian police, reports said.

The incident took place at the Al-Noor Islamic Centre in Baerum town on Saturday, when there were only three people in the mosque, making preparations for Eid ul-Adha celebrations, the BBC reported.

Mosque director Irfan Mushtaq told local television network TV2 that the suspect entered the building wearing a helmet and body armour, and armed with "two shotgun-like weapons and a pistol" and opened fire.

He was, however, tackled and disarmed by 65-year-old Mohammed Rafiq, who was one of the three people present there. Rafiq, a former Pakistan Air Force officer, sustained minor injuries in the incident.

Though the suspect's identity is yet to be revealed, the police described him as a white Norwegian citizen "around 20 years old" and "from the area" where the mosque attack took place in the town of Baerum.

Facing charges of attempted murder for the attack, he has also been charged with murder after his 17-year-old stepsister was found dead in a separate location.

Rune Skjold, the acting chief of the police operation, said the suspect had been known to the police before but could not be described as someone with a "criminal background".

The man appeared to hold "far-right" and "anti-immigrant" views and had expressed sympathy for Vidkun Quisling, the leader of Norway's collaborationist government during the Nazi occupation.

Norwegian media reported that the suspect was believed to have posted on an online forum hours before the attack, seemingly praising the gunman who killed 51 people in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year.

Officials say the suspect appears to have acted on his own, and did not want to "give an explanation to police".

Muslim organisation Islamic Council Norway later described the attack as "the result of a long-lasting hate for Muslims that has been allowed to spread in Norway".

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, however, said on Twitter that Norway must fight hatred and anti-Muslim attitudes. In separate comments, she said security had been ramped up for the Eid celebrations and that tackling hate speech was a priority.

--IANS

vd/arm

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