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Norwegian Islamist wanted over deadly shooting at LGBTQ+ festival is being sent back from Pakistan

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A radical Norwegian Islamist who is suspected of complicity in the deadly shooting at an LGBTQ+ festival in Oslo two years ago has been expelled from Pakistan and is on his way to Norway, the Scandinavian country’s government said Friday. Two people were killed and nine seriously wounded in the shooting at three locations, chiefly outside the London Pub, a popular gay bar in Oslo’s nightlife district, on June 25, 2022.

Arfan Bhatti, who is to land in Oslo later Friday, allegedly posted statements online about killing gay people, Norwgian media have said.

Bhatti knew Zaniar Matapour, the main suspect in the attack that the Norwegian Police Security Service has called an “Islamist terror act.”

Matapour has since March been on trial in Oslo for the shooting, accused of terrorism.

A Norwegian citizen born in Oslo to Pakistan immigrants, Bhatti who has a past in criminal gangs, was a leading figure in radical Islamic circles in Norway for years, chiefly known as the leading figure in an Islamic State-affiliated group in the country.

The 46-year-old was not in Norway in 2022 but likely in Pakistan, Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said. His role in the 2022 shooting was unclear and Norwegian police have said that with Bhatti’s return to Norway, they “want to continue with the extensive investigations to shed light on what involvement Bhatti may have had in the attack.” “No matter where in the world someone is, they should know that the Norwegian authorities are doing everything we can to bring them to Norway,” Enger Mehl told a press conference. Norwegian police said that although there is no extradition agreement with Pakistan, Pakistani authorities have made it possible “to complete the investigation into the terrorist case.”

Upon arrival in Norway, Bhatti will be detained and face a custody hearing during the weekend, police said.

Bhatti could be called upon testifying in the trial at the Oslo District Court against Matapour. Bhatti’s lawyer John Christian Elden said his client has nothing to do with the 2022 shooting.

“Whether he is guilty is up to the legal system to decide,” Enger Mehl said.

Matapour, a Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, allegedly fired 10 rounds with a machine gun and eight shots with a handgun into a crowd before being detained by bystanders. Following the attack, a Pride parade was canceled, with police saying they couldn’t guarantee security.

Matapour who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, has refused to speak to investigators. If found guilty, he faces 30 years in prison.

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