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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Police say Finland knife attacker was targeting women

Stabbing spree by 18-year-old Moroccan asylum seeker being treated as 'murder with terrorist intent' 

AFP

The man arrested after a stabbing spree in Finland that left two people dead is a Moroccan asylum seeker who appeared to be targeting women, police said on Saturday.

"We think that the attacker especially targeted women, and the men were wounded after coming to the defence of the women," superintendent Christa Granroth of Finland's national bureau of investigation said.

The bureau said earlier it was investigating the stabbings on Friday as "murders with terrorist intent".

The two people killed in attack were women, as were six of the eight who were injured. One man was injured while trying to help a victim and the other man tried to stop the attacker, Ms Granroth said.

The dead from the apparently indiscriminate attack are Finnish citizens, while the eight wounded include one Italian, one Briton and one Swede.

Three of those wounded were still in intensive care. Four remained at the hospital and four had been released. The youngest victim was 15, the oldest 67, police said.

Police shot and arrested the knife-wielding suspect minutes after the afternoon stabbing rampage at a busy market square in Turku in south-western Finland.

He was identified only as an 18-year-old Moroccan national who had arrived in Finland in early 2016 and who had sought asylum. Police refused to comment on a claim by Finnish broadcaster MTV, citing unnamed sources, that the man's asylum application had been rejected.

The suspect was being treated in hospital and had yet to be questioned. Four other Moroccans living in Turku who know him were detained on suspicion of involvement, police said.

Police also said they had impounded a white Fiat Ducato van suspected of being connected to the stabbings, but provided no information about how it was linked. The owner of the car lives in a building in Varissuo, Turku's largest suburb, located about seven kilometres from the site of the attack.

The national bureau of investigation said it was working with the Finnish security intelligence service, police in Turku and the European Union's police agency, Europol. The European agency was helping to check whether the stabbings were connected to the terrorist attacks in Spain, which were claimed by ISIL.

Finland's intelligence service raised its threat assessment to the second level of a four-step scale in June, citing the country's "stronger profile within the radical Islamist propaganda". Finland is now considered part of the coalition against ISIL, it said.

The interior ministry ordered flags to fly at half-mast across Finland on Saturday in honour of the victims. Security at airports and train stations was increased and there were more police officers on the streets.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto attended a vigil held in the Turku Cathedral on Friday evening in honour of the victims.

"We need to stick together now, hate is not to be answered by hate," prime minister Juha Sipila said in a tweet.

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