Turku stabbing suspect may have been radicalized

Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilae lights a memorial candle at the Turku Market Square. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2017
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Turku stabbing suspect may have been radicalized

HELSINKI: Court documents on Monday identified the suspect in last week’s stabbing spree in a Finnish city as 18-year-old Abderrahman Mechkah, who the country’s intelligence agency said may have been radicalized.
The stabbing is being probed as the country’s first-ever terror attack.
Police have previously described the suspect as an asylum seeker from Morocco.
He targeted women in the attack at a market square in the southwestern port of Turku on Friday. Two people were killed dead and eight were injured.
The motive for the attack is unclear. But the Finnish intelligence agency SUPO said Turku police had received a tip early this year that Mechkah “appeared... to have been radicalized and showed interest in extremist ideologies.”
The tip, which had been forwarded to the SUPO, “contained no information about any threat of an attack.”
Mechkah, whom police shot in the thigh while arresting him minutes after the rampage, is to appear before the Turku court on Tuesday via video link from hospital, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said.
His court appearance had initially been scheduled for Monday.
Police will ask the court to remand him in custody on suspicion of two murders and eight attempted murders “with terrorist intent.”
Investigators said on Sunday that they had interrogated the suspect for the first time, but disclosed no information about the outcome.
Police will also request the detention of four other Moroccan citizens who were arrested in an overnight raid on a Turku apartment building and refugee housing center just hours after the attack.
“They are suspected of participation in the murders and attempted murders committed with a terrorist intent. They deny any involvement in the offenses,” the NBI said.
Police said earlier that the suspect was an asylum seeker who arrived in Finland in early 2016.
The attack occurred just after 4:00 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Friday, with police shooting the knife-wielding suspect minutes later.
The two people who died were both Finnish women, born in 1951 and 1986. Six of the injured were also women, while two men were injured trying to fend off the attacker.
Among the injured were an Italian, a Swede and a Briton.
Finland raised its emergency readiness level after the attack, increasing security at airports and train stations and putting more officers on the streets.
The SUPO said authorities had received over a thousand tips in recent years similar to the one concerning Mechkah.
“Our aim is to investigate all tips, but in order to go through all of them we have to prioritize heavily. Those tips that contain information about a concrete threat must be prioritized,” it said.
In June, the SUPO raised Finland’s terror threat level by a notch, to “elevated” from “low,” the second on a four-tier scale.
It said at the time that it saw an increased risk of an attack committed by Daesh militants, noting that foreign fighters from Finland had “gained significant positions within Daesh in particular and have an extensive network of relations in the organization.”
The agency reiterated on Monday that it was closely watching around 350 individuals — an increase of 80 percent since 2012.
A minute of silence was held across Finland on Sunday in honor of the victims.
Another minute of silence was to be held in Helsinki on Monday, organized by Christian and Muslim associations.


Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

Updated 4 min 44 sec ago
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Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

  • Australia will follow the US and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  • Citizens were told to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for upcoming summer holidays should “exercise a high degree of caution,” the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.
Officials in Canberra told AFP they expected the announcement to come on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinians to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.
Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.
But recognizing Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.
But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield.
The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their Ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP.
Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.
The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.
In the meantime, Australia’s foreign ministry has moved to prepare the ground.
“Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya,” it warned in a public notice Friday.
“Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and the Palestinians.
At least 235 Palestinians and two Israelis have died during violence in Gaza since March, mostly in border clashes.
On Thursday the Israeli army launched raids into the Palestinian city of Ramallah after a Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu vowed to ‘legalize’ thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.