LONDON: The Muslim convert who killed five people with a bow and arrow this week knew nothing about Islam and considered himself a messenger, his local imam has said.
Espen Andersen Braathen, 37, has been sent for a psychological evaluation ahead of his court appearance Friday, police have confirmed.
Locals have said that the man, who was a convert to Islam, was a “confused” individual who obviously posed a threat and had been reported to police in the past.
Oussama Tlili, imam at the mosque in Kongsberg where Braathen lived and carried out his attack, confirmed that he had visited three times about four or five years ago but “seemed to know nothing about Islam.”
Tlili says Braathen spoke incoherently about “a message” he had been passed by a higher power, and that he needed help delivering it. He was turned down by the imam, who rejected his plea to assist him in delivering the message, and also told him: “Kongsberg is not the place to do it,” Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported.
The imam said he had serious concerns about Braathen’s mental health and that he had considered reporting him to the police — but the incident was forgotten as Braathen stopped attending the mosque.
Childhood friends of the man also had concerns over his deteriorating mental health in the years leading up to the attack.
One former friend reported him as a security risk after seeing a 2017 video in which Braathen announced his conversion to Islam and also declared that he was “a messenger” who came with “a warning.” In that video he also asked viewers: “Is this what you want?”
His friend told police that he was a “ticking time bomb” and was potentially dangerous. He told TV2 that, looking back, he does not believe Braathen’s conversion to Islam was sincere, but was instead a symptom of his declining mental state.
Braathen was “confused” when it came to ideology and his choice of Islam was “coincidental,” said the friend.
His neighbors had also been concerned about his behavior, after observing him amassing an arsenal of weapons including batons and clubs, and practicing with them in his garden.
Police were often at the attacker’s house, and court documents show he picked up multiple convictions for aggravated theft and drug possession, and he had also previously had police visit him over concerns of radicalization.