Fatal shooting at a gay bar in Oslo would not end the fight against “discrimination, prejudice and hatred,” the Norwegian prime minister said as the country commemorated victims of the attack in the early hours of Saturday.
The altar and aisles of the Norwegian capital’s cathedral were draped with rainbow flags for a special memorial service on Sunday attended by mourners, government ministers, church leaders and Crown Princess Mette-Marit.
Black-clad Jonas Gahr Støre, speaking at the memorial, said that despite the cancellation of the city’s planned Pride events, thousands of people spontaneously marched through the streets of Oslo with rainbow flags and laid flowers at the scene.
“During the day the city was full of people who wanted to speak out about sadness and anger, but also about support and solidarity and the will to keep fighting for the right of every individual to live a free life, to live a safe life”, said Store.
“These misdeeds remind us of that. This fight is not over yet. It is not safe from danger. But we will win it together. The shooting ended the Pride march but not the fight against discrimination, prejudice and hatred.”
The head of the Norwegian Protestant Church, Olav Fykse Tveit, said that while she had long been against equal rights for same-sex couples, she had learned. “Diversity is a gift, a wealth, and many gay people have an ability to love that we don’t have,” he said. “Bullets can’t kill love.”
Two men in their 50s died in the shooting, which took place just after 1am on Saturday in and outside the London Pub, a bar in Oslo’s nightlife district popular with the LGBTQ+ community, while 21 others were injured, including 10 seriously.
Police made a second attempt on Sunday to question the suspect, a 42-year-old Norwegian-Iranian dubbed Zaniar Matapour by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and several other local media.
Authorities have described the suspect as a radicalized Islamist with a record of violence and threats and a history of mental illness. The Norwegian security service PST said the shootings were “an act of extreme Islamist terror”.
The suspect, who is accused of murder, attempted murder and terrorism, has been known to the agency since 2015 as a member of an Islamist network in Norway. He will undergo a full psychiatric evaluation in the coming days, police said.
Matapour’s lawyer, John Christian Elden, said an attempt on Saturday to question his client was cut short after it began when the suspect refused to tape the interview “because he thought the police were going to rig it”.
On Saturday, the PST raised the country’s threat level from moderate to “extreme” with a significantly increased police presence in Oslo. Police said it was unclear whether the suspect’s motive was hatred of sexual minorities.
NRK reported late Saturday that Matapour was in contact with a known Islamic extremist living in Norway, Arfan Bhatti, who earlier this month posted a photo of a burning rainbow flag and a call for gay people to be killed on social media.