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Shooting at Norway mosque investigated as 'possible act of terrorism'

Assistant chief of police says suspect had expressed far-right, anti-immigrant views online
The suspect was apprehended after the attack, in which shots were fired but no one was hit (AFP)

An attack by a gunman at a Norwegian mosque on Saturday will be investigated as a possible act of terrorism, police said on Sunday.

The suspected shooter at the al-Noor Islamic Centre near the capital Oslo - a young, white male carrying several guns - had expressed far-right, anti-immigrant views online, assistant chief of police Rune Skjold told a news conference.

"We're investigating this as an attempt at carrying out an act of terrorism," he said.

The suspect had been apprehended after the attack, in which shots were fired but no one was hit, with one of the people inside the mosque having overpowered him before police arrived.

"These people showed great courage," Skjold added.

Only three people were present in the mosque at the time of the attack, preparing for Sunday's celebration of the Eid-al-Adha festival, mosque spokesman Waheed Ahmed told the Reuters news agency on Saturday.

Mohammad Rafiq, a 65-year-old retired Pakistani Air Force officer, was the first of the three to approach the attacker, the mosque said.

"I suddenly heard shooting from outside," Rafiq told Reuters via an interpreter, adding that a man then entered the building with guns and pistols.

"He started to fire towards the two other men," Rafiq said, adding that he had then grabbed the attacker, holding him down and wrestling the weapons off the attacker.

Rafiq, who has lived in Norway for the past two-and-a-half years, said he was still recovering from the attack.

"He put his finger inside my eye, up to here; full finger inside my eye," Rafiq added.

Stepsister killed

Hours after the attack on Saturday, the body of a young woman related to the suspect was found in a house in Baerum.

Investigators are treating her death as suspicious and have opened a murder probe.

On Sunday, police confirmed that the deceased woman was the suspect's 17-year-old stepsister.

The mosque had implemented extra security measures this year after the massacre of more than 50 people at two New Zealand mosques by a right-wing extremist.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said police had ramped up security on Sunday as thousands of Muslims gathered at mosques for the Eid celebration.

While the government continuously tries to combat hate speech, more must still be done, she added.

"We are trying to combat this, but it's a challenge. I think it's a worldwide challenge in a sense," Solberg said.

Solberg called the shooting a "direct attack on Norwegian Muslims," as well as an "attack on freedom of religion".

"Today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Norwegian Muslims in condemning the attack," Solberg said in a Facebook post.

The prime minister was scheduled to attend Eid Al-Adha celebrations at an Oslo mosque on Sunday afternoon.

According to official estimates from 2016, about 200,000 Muslims live in Norway, representing nearly four percent of the total population. 

In 2011, anti-Muslim, neo-Nazi Anders Behring Breivik massacred 77 people in Norway's worst peacetime atrocity, the majority of them teenagers at a youth camp.