A man armed with a bow and arrow who allegedly killed five people in a rare incident of mass murder in Norway has been identified as a convert to Islam who police worried had been radicalised. 

The 37-year-old was arrested on Wednesday in the town of Kongsberg, some 42 miles from Oslo, following a rampage which took place in different locations in the town. Police said they had previously been in contact with him. 

The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70, Police chief Ole B. Saeverud told a news conference on Thursday. 

Police believe the man used other weapons in addition to the bow and arrow and suspect him of shooting people in a number of locations, including a supermarket. 

"Witnesses saw lifeless people, heard intense howls and screams and saw people running for their lives in the streets," Cheif Saeverud said.

Police officers investigate after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using a bow and arrows to carry out attacks

Credit: REUTERS

The attack happened in the town of Kongsberg, some 42 miles from Oslo

Credit: NTB

Two have been hospitalised and are in intensive care. They include an off-duty police officer who was inside the store. Their condition was not immediately known.

Police said officers responding to the incident were also shot at with arrows.

The suspect is being held on preliminary charges, which is a step short of formal charges. Police believe he acted alone.

Police were alerted to the attack around 6.15pm Wednesday and arrested the suspect about 30 minutes later.

Prime Minister-designate Jonas Gahr Stoere, who is expected to take office later Thursday, called the attack "horrific."

"This is unreal. But the reality is that five people have been killed, many are injured and many are in shock ," Gahr Stoere told Norwegian broadcaster NRK on Thursday.

Kari Anne, the town mayor, said: "This is a gruesome incident, there is nothing else to say. Now we must try to take care of the inhabitants as best we can."

Kongsberg – locator map

Harald Kristiansen, a Coop spokesperson, told NRK there had been "a serious incident in our store" but none of its employees had been injured.

"We are providing assistance to our colleagues and helping police with their investigation," he said.

Following the attacks, the police directorate said it had immediately ordered officers nationwide to carry firearms. Norwegian police are normally unarmed, but officers have access to guns and rifles when needed.

"This is an extra precaution. The police have no indication so far that there is a change in the national threat level," the directorate said.

Norway has traditionally been a peaceful nation, but has suffered far-right attacks in recent years. Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik carried out twin attacks that killed 77 people in 2011.

The victims were four women and one man between the ages of 50 and 70

Credit: UNPIXS

Police chief Ole B. Saeverud said the man was known to police

Credit: REUTERS

Breivik first set off a bomb in Oslo next to the building that housed the office of the prime minister, before going on a shooting spree at a summer camp for left-wing youths on the island of Utoya.

In August 2019, self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Philip Manshaus opened fire in a mosque on the outskirts of Oslo before being overpowered by worshippers, with no one being seriously injured.

Several planned jihadist attacks have also been foiled by security services.

However, Norway has one of the world’s lowest crime rates. Last year Norwegian police used or threatened to use weapons only 28 times, according to the Justice Ministry.

Earlier this year Professor Nils Christie, a criminology expert at the University of Oslo, said: "Norway is at the bottom of the list of violent crimes per capita. Our biggest crime problem is the unfounded anxiety people feel about it."

The risk of being murdered is nine times higher in the United States than it is in Norway.