(AP) — A Norwegian man suspected of killing his stepsister and then storming an Oslo mosque with guns appeared in court Monday with a smirk on his bruised face as evidence grew that he sought to emulate attacks by white supremacists in the U.S. and New Zealand.
Security experts believe Philip Manshaus is the latest example of an extremist who was radicalized by far-right conspiracy theories spread online, particularly the “great replacement” theory, which falsely warns of a “genocide” in which white people are being replaced by immigrants and Muslims.
Manshaus, 21, was arrested Saturday after entering a mosque in the Oslo suburb of Baerum, where three men were preparing for Sunday’s Eid al-Adha celebrations. Police said he waved weapons and fired several shots.
They did not specify what type of weapon was used. One person was slightly wounded before people inside the Al-Noor Islamic Center held the suspect down until police arrived.
Police then raided Manshaus’ nearby house and found the body of his 17-year-old stepsister, identified Monday as Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen, who was reportedly adopted from China as a 2-year-old. Manshaus is suspected in her killing, police said, but they did not provide details.
With signs of his struggle still visible in the dark bruises under both eyes and scratches on his face and neck, Manshaus entered a court in Oslo. In a closed-door hearing, he did not admit guilt and asked to be set free, his lawyer, Unni Fries, told The Associated Press.
The court ordered him held in pre-trial detention for four weeks, two of which will be in solitary confinement.
The head of Norway’s domestic security agency PST, Hans Sverre Sjoevold, said authorities received a “vague” tip a year ago about the suspect, but it was not enough to act because they had no information about any “concrete plans” of attack.
Norwegian media reported that Manshaus was inspired by shootings in March in New Zealand, where a gunman targeted two mosques, killing 51 people, and on Aug. 3 in El Paso, Texas, where an assailant targeted Hispanics and left at least 22 dead.
Dagbladet, one of Norway largest newspapers, reported that on the day of the attack, Manshaus wrote online that he had been “chosen” by “Saint (Brenton) Tarrant,” the Christchurch gunman.
Saturday’s attack came amid the rising popularity of far-right parties across the Nordics, fueled in part by a surge of migration into Europe in 2015. Groups that were once taboo have gained some social acceptance and influence. Extremists groups increasingly manifest their beliefs openly in ways that were once unheard of.
Magnus Ranstorp, the lead terrorism researcher at the Swedish Defense University, said the rise of violent far-right extremism is being driven by a complex overlapping of elements, including hateful rhetoric and conspiracies on social media and “old Nazis combining with the alt-right, combining a race war with a cultural war.”
Adding to that are state actors, like Russia with its propaganda outlets, and President Donald Trump seeking to sow tensions and break down trust in established elites and the media.
“The leader of free world is part of the problem,” Randstorp said.
“We are in a hybrid threat environment — we are not in peacetime,” Randstorp added. “Liberal democracy is under threat.”
Almost 4% of Norway’s 5.3 million people are refugees, and roughly 12% of the population consists of immigrants or children of immigrants, according to official figures.