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Finland Stabbings Likely Terror Act    08/19 10:24

   The knife attack in western Finland that left two people dead and seven 
others wounded is "a likely terror act," Finland's intelligence agency said 
Saturday, while police said Europol was investigating if it had any ties to 
deadly vehicle attacks in Spain.

   HELSINKI (AP) -- The knife attack in western Finland that left two people 
dead and seven others wounded is "a likely terror act," Finland's intelligence 
agency said Saturday, while police said Europol was investigating if it had any 
ties to deadly vehicle attacks in Spain.

   The suspect --- an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum-seeker --- was shot and 
wounded in the thigh by police during his rampage Friday in the city of Turku. 
He was hospitalized under guard --- still in intensive care Saturday --- and is 
being investigated for murder with possible terrorist intent, police said.

   His name has not been released but investigators say he came to Finland in 
early 2016 seeking asylum.

   "It's likely at this moment that we're dealing with a terror attack," 
intelligence agency investigator Pekka Hiltunen said, adding that it was 
investigating the suspect's connections to the Islamic State group, since IS 
"has previously encouraged this kind of behavior."

   The agency however did not change the country's threat assessment following 
the Friday attack.

   Crista Granroth of the National Bureau of Investigation said the suspect's 
attack was very focused.

   "We think the attacker was going after women," Granroth said, adding that 
one man was slashed with the knife when he tried to stand between the attacker 
and a woman.

   The suspect has yet to be questioned, while four others, also Moroccans 
living in Turku who know him, were detained on suspicion of involvement. An 
international arrest warrant had been issued for a sixth person, police said, 
declining to elaborate.

   The two dead were Finnish women, while the seven wounded included four 
Finns, and one Italian, one Briton and one Swedish man. Two of the wounded were 
still in intensive care. The youngest victim was 15, the oldest 67, police said.

   Prime Minister Juha Sipila told a news conference that if confirmed as an 
act of terrorism, "it's the first time Finland has encountered such a terror 
act."

   "Finland is not an island," he said. "We have feared something like this but 
we have been prepared," Sipila said, called the attack "a cowardly act."

   Sipila told reporters he had spoken with several European leaders, including 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, about the attack.

   The NBI said investigators were working with colleagues from the Finnish 
Security Intelligence Service, police in Turku and the European Union's police 
agency, Europol. Robin Lardot, head of the NBI, said Europol was helping to 
check whether there are connections to the vehicle attacks in Barcelona but 
refused to elaborate.

   The Swedish security service said it was helping its Finnish colleagues.

   In June, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service raised its threat 
assessment to the second level of a four-step scale, citing the Nordic 
country's "stronger profile within the radical Islamist propaganda." Finland 
was now considered part of the coalition against the Islamic State group, it 
said.

   A man from Sweden who was stabbed in the arm had tried to help another 
victim who died.

   "I tried to stop the violent bleeding from her throat ... The woman was so 
badly injured that she died in my arms," Hassan Zubier told the Expressen 
tabloid.

   The Ilta-Sanomat tabloid said one of the dead was a local Jehovah's Witness 
who was handing out leaflets at a central Turku square. The religious group 
told the tabloid they believed the woman was randomly attacked.

   Flowers and candles were placed on a square in Turku, and Finnish flags flew 
at half-staff across the country.

   "We need to stick together now, hate is not to be answered by hate," Sipila, 
the prime minister, said in a tweet. A minute of silence was planned for Sunday 
at 10 a.m.

   Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, wrote on Twitter that 
"Europeans stand with #Turku and called it "another cowardly terrorist attack 
on innocents."


(KA)

 
 
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