Finnish Police Request Detention of Five Suspects Over Knife Attack

August 21, 2017 Updated: August 21, 2017

HELSINKI – Police in Finland on Monday requested that five Moroccan men be held in pre-trial detention following their arrest after a knife attack in the city of Turku killed two and injured eight.

The suspected knifeman, an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum seeker named as Abderrahman Mechkah, was shot in the leg and arrested on Friday as people were stabbed in the city on Finland’s Baltic coast, 160 km (100 miles) west of Helsinki.

Police suspect it is the country’s first terrorism-related attack.

Mechkah will appear in court on Tuesday via video link from hospital. The National Bureau of Investigation said it was requesting that he be detained pending investigation “for two murders with terrorist intent and eight attempted murders with terrorist intent”.

Four other Moroccans, who deny involvement, are suspected of participation in the attacks and will also be present at the hearing on Tuesday at 0800 GMT, police said.

Mechkah arrived in Finland in 2016 and lived in an immigration center in Turku, according to the Red Cross.

Finnish broadcaster MTV, citing an unnamed source, reported that he had been denied asylum. Police have not confirmed that.

The Finnish intelligence service said it had received a tip-off earlier this year about Mechkah.

“According to the tip-off, the suspect seemed radicalized and was interested in extreme thinking,” it said in a statement, adding there was no information to suggest a threat of an attack.

The service said Mechkah was not among the around 350 people it monitored in its terrorism prevention program. The Legal Register Centre said Mechkah had no previous criminal record in Finland.

The knifeman appeared to have targeted women in the attack on Friday, police said. Both of those killed were women, along with six of the injured.

Mourners bring memorial cards, candles and flowers to the Turku Market Square, in Turku, Finland on August 20, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/via REUTERS)
Mourners bring memorial cards, candles and flowers to the Turku Market Square, in Turku, Finland on August 20, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen/via REUTERS)

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though police are investigating possible links to Thursday’s van attack by suspected Islamist militants in the Spanish city of Barcelona where 13 people were killed.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila on Monday called for political unity to fast-track new intelligence legislation.

“We cannot continue the current way of getting information about persons potentially dangerous to our citizens from abroad, but we are not able to investigate them sufficiently and in time,” Sipila said in a speech in Helsinki.

The center-right government will bring its new intelligence laws to parliament in the coming months, which would give authorities new powers to monitor citizens online.

By Jussi Rosendahl and Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

(Additional reporting by Tuomas Forsell)

Mourners bring memorial cards, candles and flowers to the Turku Market Square, in Turku, Finland  on August 20, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen)
Mourners bring memorial cards, candles and flowers to the Turku Market Square, in Turku, Finland on August 20, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen)

People attend a moment of silence to commemorate the victims of Friday's stabbings at the Turku Market Square in Turku, Finland on August 20, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen via REUTERS)
People attend a moment of silence to commemorate the victims of Friday’s stabbings at the Turku Market Square in Turku, Finland on August 20, 2017. (Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen via REUTERS)