Suspect in Attempted Terrorist Attack on a Norwegian Mosque Appears in Court

Norwegian media reports that the suspect was inspired by mass shootings in New Zealand and in El Paso, Texas, which targeted immigrants

Terror suspected Philip Manshaus attends a hearing at an Oslo courthouse on August 12, 2019 in Norway
Photo by Cornelius Poppe / NTB Scanpix / AFP

The suspected gunman accused in an attempted terrorist attack on an Oslo mosque and the separate killing of his teenage stepsister was Monday jailed in pre-trial detention for four weeks.

Philip Manshaus, 21, appeared in court looking bruised and scratched, but smiling. He did not speak, and his defense lawyer Unni Fries told The Associated Press he "will use his right not to explain himself for now."

Manshaus was arrested Saturday after entering a mosque in Baerum, an Oslo suburb, where three men were preparing for Sunday's Eid al-Adha Muslim celebrations. Police said he was waving weapons and several shots were fired but did not specify what type of weapon was used. One person was slightly injured before people inside the Al-Noor Islamic Center held the suspect down until police arrived on the scene.

Police then raided Manshaus' nearby house and found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister. He is also suspected in her killing, police said, but did not provide details.

After Monday's hearing, which was held behind closed doors, Fries said her client "does not admit criminal guilt." The Oslo District Court ordered him held for four weeks, including two weeks in solitary confinement, while police investigate.

The head of Norway's domestic security agency said Monday officials had received a "vague" tip a year ago about the suspect, but it was not sufficient to act because officials had no information about any "concrete plans" of attack.

Hans Sverre Sjoevold, head of Norway's PST agency, told a news conference that the agency and the police receive many tips from worried people every day and the information "didn't go in the direction of an imminent terror planning."

The suspect's lawyer declined to comment on Norwegian media reports that Manshaus was inspired by shootings in March in New Zealand, where a gunman killed 51 people, and on Aug. 3 in El Paso, Texas, which left at least 22 dead.

The suspect was seen smiling as he appeared in court Monday with dark bruises under both eyes and scratches across his face and neck. Police had said that he was prepared to cause deaths and more injuries but didn't succeed because people inside the mosque helped neutralize him.

Dagbladet, one of Norway largest newspapers, reported that on the day of the attack, Manshaus wrote online he had been "chosen" by "Saint (Brenton) Tarrant," the Christchurch gunman.

The name of the Oslo mosque is similar to the one in the New Zealand attacks.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the attempted attack a "direct attack on Norwegian Muslims."

On Monday Solberg suggested that political parties unite to tackle racism and discrimination, including possible legislation aiming to thwart hatred against Muslims.

The suspect's thwarted plans recall those of the Norwegian right-wing extremist who in 2011 killed 77 people in 2011. Anders Behring Breivik is serving a 21-year prison sentence for carrying out a terror attack.

Breivik had ranted about Europe being overrun by Muslim immigrants and blamed left-wing political forces for making the continent multicultural.

According to official figures, almost 4% of Norway's 5.3 million are refugees, and roughly 12% of the population consists of immigrants or children of immigrants.