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Suspect in Finland Stabbing Attack Admits to Killing 2 | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The suspect held in last week’s Finland knife attack admits to killing two. (Reuters)

The Moroccan suspect held for last week’s stabbing rampage in Finland admitted on Tuesday the killing of two people and wounding eight.

Abderrahman Mechkah, an 18-year-old asylum seeker, confessed to carrying out Friday’s attack in the city of Turku but denied he had a terrorist motive, his lawyer Kaarle Gummerus said.

“(My client) admits manslaughter and injuries. But based on what the investigator has presented thus far, the crime was not necessarily with terrorist intent,” Gummerus told Reuters after a closed-door court hearing.

Earlier, Finnish police requested that two of five Moroccans arrested over last week’s knife attack be detained for murder with terrorist intent, a court said on Tuesday.

Previously the police had accused only the main suspect, Mechkah, of killing two people and wounding eight in the rampage, while the role of the four other men was unclear.

The court declined to elaborate on the police request. All the suspects will appear in a court hearing later on Tuesday.

Mechkah was known to Finnish intelligence as a suspected extremist but was not being monitored, authorities said on Monday, as the prime minister urged parliament to fast-track a new security law.

Mechkah, who had no criminal record, was shot in the leg and arrested after the attack.

Police said they are treating it as the first terrorism-related attack in Finland, which the World Economic Forum has described as the world’s safest place to visit.

The Finnish intelligence service said in a statement 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, while adding there was no information to suggest a threat of an attack.

The service said Mechkah was not among the around 350 people it was monitoring in its terrorism prevention program.

Investigators have not made clear what role the four other Moroccans are suspected of playing. They deny involvement. Police also issued an international arrest warrant for a sixth Moroccan national.

No group has claimed responsibility for the stabbings, which appeared to target women. But police are investigating possible links to Thursday’s van attack by suspected extremist militants in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where 13 people were killed.

Prime Minister Juha Sipila called for political unity to fast-track already planned legislation giving authorities new powers to monitor citizens online, which he said would reduce Finland’s dependence on intelligence from foreign partners.

“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. His center-right government will bring bills to parliament in the coming months.

German authorities said the suspect, Mechkah, arrived in Germany in 2015 but did not apply for asylum there. He came to Finland in 2016 and has since lived in an immigration center in Turku, according to the Red Cross.

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

Heimo Nurmi, site manager at the Red Cross reception center in Turku, said Mechkah and two of the four other arrested Moroccans lived at the center and were all asylum seekers.

He declined to comment on the status of their applications, but said: “It is very difficult to get asylum if you come from Morocco. Maybe because there are no big reasons to have it granted.”

In 2016, 155 Moroccans applied for asylum in Finland. Only 20 were granted.