Mosque at­tack pre­vented by for­mer mil­i­tary of­fi­cer

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Rick Noack

BERLIN — A 65-yearold for­mer Pak­istani mil­i­tary of­fi­cer is be­ing cred­ited with thwart­ing an at­tack at a mosque in Nor­way, af­ter he tack­led a heav­ily armed gun­man who al­legedly stormed into the house of wor­ship with the in­ten­tion of car­ry­ing out a mass shoot­ing mo­ti­vated by ha­tred of Mus­lims.

Mo­ham­mad Rafiq said he threw the sus­pect to the ground af­ter the gun­man en­tered the al-Noor Is­lamic Cen­ter in Baerum near the Nor­we­gian capital of Oslo on Satur­day, be­fore the two other men in­side the mosque rushed to help him pin down the man un­til po­lice ar­rived.

Rafiq’s quick ac­tion helped avert an at­tack that brought back painful mem­o­ries of the Christchur­ch shoot­ings in New Zealand ear­lier this year, when a gun­man at­tacked two mosques and killed 51 peo­ple dur­ing Fri­day prayers.

“There is no doubt that the swift and firm re­sponse from the per­sons in­side the mosque stopped the ag­gres­sor,” act­ing Po­lice Sta­tion Chief Rune Skjold said in a state­ment.

“These per­sons showed great courage.”

The at­tempted at­tack on al-Noor Is­lamic Cen­ter hap­pened a day be­fore Mus­lims around the world cel­e­brate Eid al

Adha, one of the most im­por­tant hol­i­days on the Is­lamic cal­en­dar mark­ing the end of the hajj pil­grim­age.

Rafiq and the two oth­ers had been at the al-Noor mosque pre­par­ing for the fes­tiv­i­ties.

Au­thor­i­ties are now treat­ing the at­tack as a sus­pected act of ter­ror­ism, and Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg has con­demned Satur­day’s in­ci­dent as a “di­rect at­tack on Nor­we­gian Mus­lims.”

“It was an at­tack on re­li­gious free­dom,” she wrote on Face­book.

The sus­pect, Philip Man­shaus, 21, ap­peared in court look­ing bruised and scratched, but smil­ing. He did not speak, and his de­fense lawyer Unni Fries said that her client “will use his right not to ex­plain him­self for now.”

He has been charged with homi­cide and ter­ror­ist acts and was or­dered jailed in pre­trial de­ten­tion for four weeks af­ter his court hear­ing Mon­day. Fol­low­ing the at­tempted at­tack on t he Mosque, in­ves­ti­ga­tors then raided Man­shaus’ nearby house and found the body of his 17year-old step­sis­ter. He is also sus­pected in her killing, po­lice said, but did not pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails.

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.”

As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.


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