Norway Mosque Shooting Suspect Appears in Court With Wounded Face

By Reuters
August 12, 2019 Updated: August 12, 2019

OSLO—The man suspected of shooting at people inside a Norwegian mosque on Aug. 10, and of killing his Chinese-born stepsister, appeared in court on Aug. 12 with black eyes and wounds on his face and neck.

A judge gave police permission to hold 21-year-old Philip Manshaus in custody for an initial four weeks while he is investigated on suspicion of murder and breach of anti-terrorism law, the court’s ruling later showed.

Manshaus, who briefly smiled at photographers, does not admit to any crime, his lawyer said.

Philip Manshaus
Philip Manshaus (R), who is suspected of an armed attack at Al-Noor Islamic Centre Mosque and killing his stepsister and his lawyer Unni Fries appear in court in Oslo, Norway, Aug. 12, 2019. (NTB Scanpix/Cornelius Poppe via Reuters)

Witnesses said Manshaus entered the al-Noor Islamic Centre with several guns, but was overpowered by a 65-year-old member of the mosque, who managed to wrestle away his weapons in the fight that followed.

Manshaus wore a helmet camera, filming the shooting, but did not appear to have broadcast the attack, according to prosecutors.

“This video is key evidence,” police attorney Paal-Fredrik Hjort Kraby said at a news conference.

Flowers dedicated to the late stepsister of a suspected gunman
Flowers dedicated to the late stepsister of a suspected killer, who attacked Al-Noor Islamic Centre Mosque, are seen outside their house in Baerum outside Oslo, Norway, on Aug. 12, 2019. (NTB Scanpix/Orn E. Borgen via Reuters)

Online postings under Manshaus’s name, made shortly before the attack, expressed admiration for the massacre of more than 50 people at two New Zealand mosques in March by a suspected white supremacist, who filmed and broadcast the killings live online.

Reuters could not independently verify that the postings were made by Philip Manshaus.

A few hours after the Norwegian mosque attack, police discovered the body of a young woman at what they said was the suspect’s address. Police later named her as his stepsister, Chinese-born Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen.

The 17-year-old was adopted as a small child by a Norwegian woman, who is now the spouse of Philip Manshaus’s father, the mother’s lawyer said.

“These hours after what happened have been chaotic, unreal, a tragedy,” the lawyer, Elisabeth Hagen, told Reuters.

“These are two tragedies, one with the girl and one with the mosque. I represent the mother of the girl,” she said, adding that the girl’s mother and Manshaus’s father were together, and surrounded by friends helping them cope.

Noor Islamic Centre mosque
A view of the al-Noor Islamic Centre mosque in Sandvika, Norway, on Aug 11, 2019. (Reuters/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos)

Hagen declined to comment on any possible motive for the killing.

Manshaus did not speak while reporters were present, and has so far declined to talk to the police.

“He is exercising his right not to be interrogated,” his defense attorney, Unni Fries, told Reuters. “He is not admitting any guilt.”

Police sought to hold him on suspicion of murder, as well as of breaching anti-terrorism law by spreading severe fear among the population when firing several guns at the mosque.

While some of the weapons had been legally obtained by one or more residents at Manshaus’s home, others may have been illegal, police said.

The Norwegian police security service (PST), which monitors and investigates extremist threats, said on Aug. 12 it had received a tip-off regarding Manshaus last year, but did not launch an investigation at the time.

“There was nothing in that tip-off that suggested there was danger of an act of terrorism or that planning of an attack was underway,” PST head Hans Sverre Sjoevold said at a news conference.

He declined to comment on the content and source of the warning.

Head of Norway's security police
Head of Norway’s security police (PST) Hans Sverre Sjovold speaks at a news conference in Oslo, Norway, on Aug. 12, 2019. (Reuters/Nerijus Adomaitis)

PST will now explore whether Manshaus had links to any domestic or foreign extremist networks, although investigators have said they believed he acted alone in the attack, Sjoevold told Reuters.

In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik massacred 77 people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity, the majority of them teenagers at a youth camp.

“We are trying to combat this, but it’s a challenge. I think it’s a word-wide challenge in a sense,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Aug. 11, referring to hate speech.

Any formal charges in the case, and a trial to decide whether Manshaus is guilty or not, are likely to still be months away.

A guilty verdict on charges of breaching anti-terrorism laws can carry a sentence of up to 21 years in prison, as can the killing of the suspect’s 17-year-old stepsister, according to Norwegian sentencing guidelines.

By Victoria Klesty and Lefteris Karagiannopoulos