Finland investigates stabbings as possible terror attacks, warn against polarization

Xinhua
The Finnish police have started the probe into a violence that left two dead and eight wounded in Turku on Friday on basis of assumption that the attack was of terrorism nature.
Xinhua
Xinhua

People place candles and flowers to commemorate the victims of Friday's stabbings at the Turku Market Square, Finland on Aug. 19, 2017. Another four Moroccans were detained and a warrant has been issued for a fifth after a young man stabbed people at the squares in the southwestern Finnish city of Turku, police said on Saturday.

The Finnish police have started the probe into a violence that left two dead and eight wounded in southwest Finland city of Turku on Friday on basis of assumption that the attack was of terrorism nature.

And to determine whether it is linked to the recent series of terror attacks in Spain would also be one focus of the probe.

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said on Saturday if the incident turns out to be terrorism-related, it would be the first of its kind in Finland, a Nordic country known for its security and quietness.

WAVE OF ATTACKS IN EUROPE

Turku, the oldest city of Finland, witnessed bloody scenes on Friday afternoon when an 18-year-old man stabbed people with a huge knife from one square to another in the city center. Two Finnish women were killed and eight others were wounded. A Briton, a Swede and an Italian were among the wounded.

The stabber chose his targets randomly, but they were all women, said the police.

The main suspect, who was shot in the leg and detained on Friday, was identified as a Moroccan citizen. Overnight, four other Moroccans were also arrested and a fifth was still wanted. The police said the group had probably planned the assault beforehand.

Researcher Leena Malkki, a leading Finnish expert on terrorism, said on national broadcaster Yle that the connection with international terrorism remains open. "If there is such a connection, this is a continuation of the recent series of attacks in Europe."

Malkki said knives have become typical tools for terror attacks in Europe. She said knives are easy to use in Europe, where more complex attacks have become difficult due to increasing counterterrorism measures.

The Finnish police said on Saturday they were investigating the case as a terrorism-related one.

Under Finnish law, the definition of a terrorist attack requires that the motive must be either political or religious. Malkki believed the police had found indications of either.

POLARIZATION BECOMES CONCERN

Concerns about further polarization in Finnish society on the immigration issue dominated statements by political leaders, as the stabber was said to be an asylum seeker who entered Finland in 2016.

The police said he was "in the asylum process", but did not specify whether he had been given asylum or not.

Both Sipila and Interior Minister Paula Risikko refused at a press conference on Saturday to discuss the implications of the incident on the Finnish immigration policies. They noted the motives of the attack would only be known later and the possible impact on immigration policy could only be assessed thereafter.

However, heated debate on immigration seems unavoidable. An anti-immigration group called "Finland First" opened an information tent at the scene of the stabbing on the Market Square in Turku on Saturday.

On the same square, counter demonstrators against racism also showed up, chanting slogans such as "My Turku is international" and "No room for racism". The police decided to position the two sides further away to avoid possible clashes.

Ville Tavio, a local politician in Turku representing the populist Finns Party, said in a statement that "terrorists should be fought against with hard tools". The Finns Party recently elected immigration critical Jussi Halla-aho as its chairman. The party's presidential candidate Laura Huhtasaari has also voiced criticism against immigration beyond confirmed labor needs.

RISK LEVEL NOT RAISED

The Finnish Security police, Supo said the terrorism risk level would not be raised despite the deadly attack.

Supo's director Antti Pelttari said at a news conference on Saturday that the multiple stabbings in Turku remained within the previous Finnish analysis that "violence-inspired individuals" would be the main risk in Finnish society.

And Minister Risikko said the police are prepared to intervene in any revenge.

Meanwhile, both Sipila and Risikko underlined the need to revise the Finnish security legislation. Changes are underway but still require parliamentary approval.

Risikko noted that current laws allow surveillance of communications only when a threat is imminent or a possible crime has taken place, which limited the capability of the investigators to trace felons.

Sipila called for a nation wide moment of silence at 10 a.m. (07.00 GMT) Sunday morning. Finnish flags were at half mast all day Saturday upon recommendation of the interior ministry.

The prime minister said foreigners in Finland must not be labeled. He said in a release earlier that "hatred should not be encountered with hatred." Enditem

HELSINKI, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Finnish police have started the probe into a violence that left two dead and eight wounded in southwest Finland city of Turku on Friday on basis of assumption that the attack was of terrorism nature.

And to determine whether it is linked to the recent series of terror attacks in Spain would also be one focus of the probe.

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said on Saturday if the incident turns out to be terrorism-related, it would be the first of its kind in Finland, a Nordic country known for its security and quietness.

WAVE OF ATTACKS IN EUROPE

Turku, the oldest city of Finland, witnessed bloody scenes on Friday afternoon when an 18-year-old man stabbed people with a huge knife from one square to another in the city center. Two Finnish women were killed and eight others were wounded. A Briton, a Swede and an Italian were among the wounded.

The stabber chose his targets randomly, but they were all women, said the police.

The main suspect, who was shot in the leg and detained on Friday, was identified as a Moroccan citizen. Overnight, four other Moroccans were also arrested and a fifth was still wanted. The police said the group had probably planned the assault beforehand.

Researcher Leena Malkki, a leading Finnish expert on terrorism, said on national broadcaster Yle that the connection with international terrorism remains open. "If there is such a connection, this is a continuation of the recent series of attacks in Europe."

Malkki said knives have become typical tools for terror attacks in Europe. She said knives are easy to use in Europe, where more complex attacks have become difficult due to increasing counterterrorism measures.

The Finnish police said on Saturday they were investigating the case as a terrorism-related one.

Under Finnish law, the definition of a terrorist attack requires that the motive must be either political or religious. Malkki believed the police had found indications of either.

POLARIZATION BECOMES CONCERN

Concerns about further polarization in Finnish society on the immigration issue dominated statements by political leaders, as the stabber was said to be an asylum seeker who entered Finland in 2016.

The police said he was "in the asylum process", but did not specify whether he had been given asylum or not.

Both Sipila and Interior Minister Paula Risikko refused at a press conference on Saturday to discuss the implications of the incident on the Finnish immigration policies. They noted the motives of the attack would only be known later and the possible impact on immigration policy could only be assessed thereafter.

However, heated debate on immigration seems unavoidable. An anti-immigration group called "Finland First" opened an information tent at the scene of the stabbing on the Market Square in Turku on Saturday.

On the same square, counter demonstrators against racism also showed up, chanting slogans such as "My Turku is international" and "No room for racism". The police decided to position the two sides further away to avoid possible clashes.

Ville Tavio, a local politician in Turku representing the populist Finns Party, said in a statement that "terrorists should be fought against with hard tools". The Finns Party recently elected immigration critical Jussi Halla-aho as its chairman. The party's presidential candidate Laura Huhtasaari has also voiced criticism against immigration beyond confirmed labor needs.

RISK LEVEL NOT RAISED

The Finnish Security police, Supo said the terrorism risk level would not be raised despite the deadly attack.

Supo's director Antti Pelttari said at a news conference on Saturday that the multiple stabbings in Turku remained within the previous Finnish analysis that "violence-inspired individuals" would be the main risk in Finnish society.

And Minister Risikko said the police are prepared to intervene in any revenge.

Meanwhile, both Sipila and Risikko underlined the need to revise the Finnish security legislation. Changes are underway but still require parliamentary approval.

Risikko noted that current laws allow surveillance of communications only when a threat is imminent or a possible crime has taken place, which limited the capability of the investigators to trace felons.

Sipila called for a nation wide moment of silence at 10 a.m. (07.00 GMT) Sunday morning. Finnish flags were at half mast all day Saturday upon recommendation of the interior ministry.

The prime minister said foreigners in Finland must not be labeled. He said in a release earlier that "hatred should not be encountered with hatred."


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