Petrol Bombs and Threats of Retaliation Following Knife Attack in Downtown Club

police lögreglan

Reykjavík and capital-area police are investigating a series of crimes believed to be connected to the knife attack that occurred at Bankastræti Club in downtown Reykjavík on Thursday night. RÚV reports that in the wake of the attack, which left three young men hospitalized, petrol bombs have been thrown into houses, windows broken, and suspects’ families subjected to harassment. There have also been posts on social media, encouraging retaliation for the attacks. Police believe that the incidents possibly herald the beginnings of a gang war, although this but one possible explanation.

Police still searching for over ten suspects; two have fled the country

A group of almost thirty people, all dressed in dark clothing and masks, barged into Bankastræti Club on Thursday night and attacked three men, all of whom were in their twenties, stabbing them repeatedly before fleeing the scene. The stabbing victims have since posted on social media, seemingly unruffled by the incident, and two of them were also interviewed on FM957 on Saturday. In the interview, they said that one of them had been stabbed a total of seven times, but was feeling pretty good, all things considered, or “like a king,” as he put it.

As of Saturday, fourteen of those involved in the attack had been arrested and nine had been sentenced to two weeks in police custody. Police were still searching for over ten of the remaining suspects, although their identities were believed to be known. Two suspects have fled the country.

Over the weekend, police called for anyone involved in the incident to come forward, but only one person did. A search of suspects’ phone data is also underway, but police say this will be an extensive and intensive process.

Stress on prison system

The scope of the incident and the number of people remanded into custody is already straining the local prison system’s capacity, as it is unusual for so many people to be held at once. Halldór Valur Pálsson, director of the Icelandic prison system, says that while prison officials in no way anticipated an incident of this scope and with this many detainees, Icelandic prisons still have enough capacity to deal with the situation at present. But things could become serious, he says, if a gang war is, in fact, underway.

“It absolutely threatens the safety of the staff and other prisoners as well, if this kind of conflict is going on,” he said. “If there are gang conflicts happening out in society, they also find their ways into the prisons in the end.”

The capacity issue is not just a question of being able to hold suspects while the police investigate, however. It also has a knock-on effect for those waiting to serve a prison sentence. New measures have been introduced in recent years that allow convicted individuals to serve their sentences outside of prison walls, for instance by means of electronic surveillance or community service. But there is still a waiting list for those who are actually required to serve their sentences in prison. These individuals must wait to serve their sentences until a facility has room for them. There are currently 317 individuals waiting to serve their prison sentences.

Stabbing may be linked to motorcycle fire

Police say that the investigation is progressing well, considering its scope. The inciting incident has yet to be confirmed, but it’s possible that the stabbings were related to two motorcycles that were set on fire in Álftamýri on the east side of Reykjavík last Wednesday night.

Iceland’s COVID Restrictions Relaxed at Midnight, Lifted in Four Weeks

At a bar in Reykjavík Iceland, drinking beer.

Iceland’s domestic COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed at midnight tonight, and all remaining domestic restrictions are set to be lifted in four weeks, the country’s health authorities have announced. As of midnight, the general gathering limit will be raised from 500 to 2,000, mask use requirements will be lifted, and bars will be permitted to remain open one hour longer. Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced the changes following this morning’s cabinet meeting.

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist had sent the Health Minister a memorandum outlining three possible scenarios after the current domestic regulations expire: the first was to maintain the current COVID-19 restrictions, the second to relax restrictions in stages, and the third to lift all restrictions. The Health Minister and Prime Minister had previously sent the Chief Epidemiologist a memorandum that outlined the reasoning other Nordic countries had used in lifting all domestic restrictions. Those countries had determined that a majority-vaccinated population faced little risk from COVID-19 as a whole. Three-quarters of Iceland’s population, or 75%, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Svandís stated that if all goes well, all domestic COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in Iceland on November 18, 2021. Iceland maintains COVID-19 travel restrictions at its borders.

There are currently 562 active cases of COVID-19 in Iceland, with seven people hospitalised due to the illness and zero patients in ICU.

Majority of Icelanders In Favor of Bars Closing Earlier

bar beer alcohol

The majority of Icelanders are in favor of bars and nightclubs closing earlier—even after COVID restrictions are lifted, Vísir reports. A recent survey conducted by Maskína showed that 63% of respondents were “very in favor” or “moderately in favor” of significantly reduced hours, while only 18% reported being “very opposed” or “moderately opposed” to tighter restrictions.

The opening hours of bars and clubs have fluctuated a lot since March 2020, but even after infections levels dropped recently, there has been some question as to whether permanently reduced hours might be for the better. Under normal circumstances, bars and clubs are permitted to stay open until 4:30 AM on weekends and 1:00 AM on weeknights.

Age had a significant impact on respondents’ feelings on the matter. Only 29.9% of people aged 18-29 were strongly in favor of shorter opening hours, and 18.9% were moderately in favor of it. Perhaps more surprising is that only 8.7% of respondents in this demographic reported being strongly opposed to shortening opening hours.

Partnered status also impacted responses: around 48% of single people support shorter bar and club hours, versus 66% of respondents who cohabitat with a partner.

Gathering Limit to be Raised to 300 After the Weekend

Following a closed cabinet meeting this morning, Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir announced that social restrictions will be eased on Tuesday, June 15th, Vísir reports.

Nightclubs open until midnight, restaurants too

The restrictions will see the limit on public gatherings raised to 300 people and the two-metre rule replaced by the one-metre rule. Individuals attending public gatherings of 300 people will be allowed to sit side by side, with the one-metre rule only applying at events attended by a greater number of people. Masks will still be mandatory at seated events.

Night clubs will be allowed to remain open until midnight and guests will have had to have left the premises before 1 am. Restaurants will likewise be open until midnight.

Hope to ease all social restrictions next month

The authorities hope to ease all social restrictions within the country at the beginning of next month and to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 15 suffering from long-term illnesses during the middle of this month.

When the new regulations take effect, fully-vaccinated travellers will be exempt from screening upon their arrival. Those travellers who have not been vaccinated, however, must undergo two PCR tests and quarantine between the tests.

COVID cases on the decline

In a memorandum to the government, the Chief Epidemiologist notes that the state of affairs in Iceland, vis-a-vis the COVID-19 pandemic, is good. Since May 25, when the last regulations were passed, 42 individuals have been diagnosed with COVID within the borders – 25 of whom were in quarantine. Cases have been decreasing over the past few days despite a high number of tests. “It is clear that widespread vaccination in Iceland, and individual sanitary measures, have resulted in our success, although the virus is still among us.”

The new regulations will be in effect until Tuesday, June 29.

This article will be updated.