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.


Nationalist ‘leprosy’ spreading in Europe: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron is pictured after giving a speech on June 21, 2018, during his visit at the French western France of Quimper. (AFP)
Updated 22 min 58 sec ago
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Nationalist ‘leprosy’ spreading in Europe: Macron

  • Macron condemned “resurgent nationalism and closed borders, which some are pushing for” while repeating that Europe “cannot welcome everyone”
  • Italy’s new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, hit back at the French president

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday likened rising nationalism and anti-migrant sentiment in Europe to “leprosy.”
On a visit to Brittany three days before a meeting of European leaders to try to resolve the continent’s migrant crisis, Macron urged the French not to give into anti-EU sentiment.
“I’m saying to you in the gravest terms: Many hate it (Europe) but they have hated it for a long time, and now you see them (nationalists) rise, like leprosy, all around Europe, in countries where we thought that they would never reappear.”
These included “friends and neighbors” who “say the worst things and we become used to it,” he added.
Macron did not say to whom he was referring but France and Italy traded barbs in the past 10 days over Rome’s refusal to take in a boatload of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.
The 629 passengers onboard the Aquarius were also rejected by Malta before being taken in by Spain in a case which shone attention on mounting anti-migrant sentiment in Europe.
Italy’s new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, hit back at the French president.
“If Macron were to stop insulting and concretely practice the generosity that fills his mouth by welcoming the thousands of immigrants that Italy has in recent years, it would be better for everyone,” Salvini said in the town of Terni, according to the Italian press agency AGI, when questioned about friction with France.
“We may be leper populists,” he said, “but I take the lessons from those who open their own ports. Welcome thousands of migrants and then talk we can talk.”
An influx of more than two million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa in the past three years has fueled the rise of nationalist and populist parties, including the League and Five Star Movement which share power in Italy.
Macron condemned “resurgent nationalism and closed borders, which some are pushing for” while repeating that Europe “cannot welcome everyone.”
The median position adopted by his government — stepping up deportations of so-called economic migrants while improving conditions for refugees — was “always the most difficult because no one is happy, but it is more responsible than playing on people’s fears,” he argued.
In remarks aimed at his leftist critics, he said that those who argued “we should welcome everyone” were turning a blind eye to the divisions in French society.
“I want France and its national cohesion to remain intact,” he said.