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.


At least 8 killed in blast near Kabul University

Updated 19 July 2019
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At least 8 killed in blast near Kabul University

  • No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack
  • Explosion happened when a number of students were waiting near the campus gate to attend an exam

KABUL: At least eight people were killed and dozens more wounded Friday when a bomb detonated near a major university in Kabul while students were waiting to take an exam, officials said.

The blast comes amid an unending wave of violence across Afghanistan, where civilians are being killed every day in the country’s grueling conflict, now in its 18th year.

The Taliban denied any involvement in Friday’s blast, which took place near the southern entrance to Kabul University, an official with the interior ministry’s media office said.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said the death toll had reached eight, with another 33 injured.

“Wounded patients have been receiving the required medical and surgical treatment,” he said on Twitter.

The heavily militarized Afghan capital remains one of the highest-profile targets for both the Taliban and the so-called Daesh group, with both regularly launching devastating attacks that often kill and maim civilians.

Bahar Mehr, the interior ministry official, said five people had been killed including a traffic police officer.

“The wounded were law students gathered for (an examination). We do not know how many students had gathered there,” he said.

The blast had been caused by a sticky bomb, he said, a common threat in Kabul where criminals and insurgents often slap explosives under vehicles.

Local media reports said police had been pursuing the vehicle when it detonated.

“The university and the examination ceremony were not the target of the attack, and we are investigating,” Firdaws Faramarz, Kabul police spokesman, told TV network TOLO.

Last week, Daesh claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a wedding ceremony in Nangarhar province.

The hard-line Sunni extremists have a growing footprint in Afghanistan and the United States wants to leave a counter-terrorism force in the country to tackle them in the event of a peace deal with the Taliban.