The morning after, Bengt Tore Gill and his friend Harald Lundteppen return to the place where they narrowly escaped death hours earlier. “It’s very sad, hurtful and disappointing that something like this can happen,” Gill told the Aftenposten newspaper on Saturday in front of the “London Pub”, Oslo’s best-known and oldest gay bar. The two men have brought roses, which they place with the other hundreds of flowers and rainbow flags on the sidewalk.
The planned Pride march for the rights of gay, lesbian and other sexual minorities was canceled immediately. But the hundreds of Osloers spontaneously met in the city center on Saturday and demonstrated anyway.
The night before, 42-year-old Zaniar Matapour appeared in front of the bar, pulled a gun from a sports bag and shot two people outside the pub “Per på Hjørnet”. Then he walked a few meters and fired at people in the “London Bar”. The police only announced that the fatalities were two men aged around 50 and 60 years. The eyewitness Lundteppen describes how he became aware of the attack. “We were sitting in the basement of the ‘London Bar’ when shots rang out. People ran downstairs to us and shouted for us to lie down. Security guards then ushered us out of the building through a back entrance. As soon as we were outside, we ran away.” At 1:14 a.m., the first emergency calls were received by the police. Eventually some of the pub patrons wrestled the assassin down and handed him over to the officers. The police officers only had to collect Matapour.
The motive of the man is already clear from the point of view of the police. “We see the shots as an Islamist act of terrorism,” said Roger Berg, head of the state security department of the police (PST). That’s why the agency raised the terror alert level from “moderate” to “extraordinary.” One fears copycats, as Berg announced at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
Matapour comes from the Kurdish part of north-west Iran and came to Oslo as a child. He has Norwegian nationality and has previously attracted attention. According to police, he has a long criminal record, mostly consisting of assault and threats. “We’ve known him since 2015, when he joined the extremist Islamist milieu,” Berg said. It is said to be a network that is close to IS.
The police also carried out so-called “danger speeches” at Matapour, most recently in May – with apparently little success. According to official information, the assassin has not yet commented. The attorney John Christian Elden appears as his defense attorney. He informed “Aftenposten” that it was still too early to speculate about the background and motives of the crime. Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre described the act on Facebook as a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people. While the motive is unclear, the shots sparked fear and grief in the LGBTQ community.
Harald Lundteppen feels “more insecure” after the attack, but is happy about the solidarity of the citizens, who are now even more demonstrating for the gay community. “It’s unbelievable how quickly the people of Oslo came and supported us.”