A mass shooting outside a gay club in Oslo, Norway, early Saturday has left two people dead and around 19 wounded. It came a little more than 12 hours before the city’s Pride, which was canceled due to the violence.
The victims were shot near the London Pub, a popular gay nightclub in the city’s center, according to Sky News. The outlet reports that police arrested a suspect close to the club soon after the shootings.
Authorities say they are investigating the mass shooting as a possible terrorist attack. The suspect has been charged with terrorism, murder, and attempted murder.
Prosecutor Christian Hatlo told reporters on Saturday that the man was "known to police" but had only a history of minor convictions, CNN reports.
London Pub calls itself the “gay headquarters since 1979,” local news NRK reports. Police told the outlet that they believe the shooting was the action of one gunman.
Those who own guns in the Scandinavian country are required to not only be licensed but to also take safety classes, according to the New York Times.
The country is known for its support of LGBTQ+ rights. Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry there since 2009. Norway placed fourth out of 49 European countries in human rights group ILGA-Europe’s annual ranking of LGBTQ+ rights across the continent.
“We are shocked and saddened by the tragic incident, and we are following it closely. We are in close dialogue with the police. Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. We will provide more information as soon as possible,” Oslo Pride said in a Facebook post after the shooting.
"Oslo Pride has received clear advice and a recommendation from the police that the parade, Pride Park, and any other event in relation to Oslo Pride be canceled. Oslo Pride therefore implores anyone who had planned to participate in or watch the parade, not to show up. All events in relation to Oslo Pride have been canceled," Inger Kristin Haugsevje, leader of Oslo Pride, and Inge Alexander Gjestvang, leader of the Norwegian Organisation for Sexual and Gender Diversity, said in a joint statement on Facebook. "We will follow the police’s recommendation and take care of each other. We are sending warm thoughts and love to next of kin, those who were wounded, and others affected. We will soon be proud and visible again, but today, we will share our Pride celebrations from home."
They added, "Oslo Pride is communicating closely with the police and are following the situation, and will share information continuously."
Norway's prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the shooting was "a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people" and said "even though we do not know if the queer environment was the goal, the queer environment is regardless the victim."
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"This day, June 25th, we were to celebrate love, we were to fill the streets in the colors of the rainbow, we were to showcase our community and our freedom. Instead, we are filled with grief," Støre said, according to CNN. "Let there be no doubt. We are a community, we are a diverse and strong community, and we will never be threatened or give up our values."
He said the suspect was a Islamic religious extremist, emphasizing that Muslims in the country will "feel vulnerable today...I know that many Muslims in our country are also scared and in despair. It is our common responsibility to make it clear that no one other than the person or the people behind the attack is responsible for it."
In a press briefing, White House spokesperson John Kirby said, "We’re all horrified by the mass shooting in Oslo today, targeting the LGBTQI+ community there. And our ho- — our hearts, obviously, go out to all the families of — of the victims; the people of Norway, which is a tremendous ally; and of course the LGBTQI+ community there and around the world, quite frankly. And we stand in solidarity with our close ally, Norway, and the community in Norway and all who have been devastated by this senseless act."
More than ten years ago a Norwegian right-wing extremist killed almost 80 people, many of them young people, after setting off an explosion in front of the prime minister’s office in Oslo’s city center and then traveling to a youth camp and opening fire there. Eight people died in the bombing and 69 at the camp.
Last year the country banned semiautomatic weapons, which the man used in the 2011 attack.