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Moroccan Student Asylum Seeker ‘Targeted Women’ in Finland Attack | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An armed police officer stands guard at the Turku Market Square in the Finnish city of Turku (RONI LEHTI, AFP, Getty Images)

Helsinki– A Moroccan asylum seeker was arrested for killing two women in a knife rampage in what is being investigated as Finland’s first terrorist attack, Finnish police said on Saturday.

The suspect, 18 years old student, attacked eight people, six of which were women, in the crowded market square of Turku, southwest of Finland. Police shot the suspect in the leg before his arrest.

Crista Granroth from the National Bureau of Investigation stated that the suspect chose women as his targets, because the men who were wounded were injured when they tried to help, or prevent the attacks.

The police began investigating into the murder but added that, “during the night we received additional information which indicates that the criminal offences are now terrorist killings.”

Police also arrested four other Moroccan men over possible links to him and issued an international arrest warrant for a sixth Moroccan, they said.

At a press briefing, police announced the suspect had arrived in Finland in 2016 and had been part of the asylum process. The Moroccan who had been hospitalized after the attack, refused to talk to the police. His identity is known to the authorities but they have not released it.

Media reports revealed that the main suspect had been denied asylum in Finland, although police said he had been “part of the asylum process”. The police are also looking into possible links to ISIS terrorist organization responsible for attacks in Spain earlier this week.

Director Antti Pelttari from the Finnish Security Intelligence Service said in a news conference that the suspect’s profile is similar to that of several other recent radical terrorists responsible for attacks in Europe.

Police also arrested four other Moroccan men over possible links to him in Turku and issued an international arrest warrant for a sixth Moroccan.

The case marks the first terrorist attack in Finland and the police said they were investigating possible links to Thursday’s deadly van attack in Barcelona, Spain.

Police reports stated that two Finnish citizens were killed in the attack and a British man, two Swedes and an Italian were injured, adding that the victims’ age ranged between 15 and 67.

In June, Finland’s intelligence and security agency Supo raised the country’s terror threat level “low” to “elevated”, the second level on a four-tier scale. The agency said it was monitoring around 350 individuals, an increase of 80 percent since 2012.

Supo stated that Finland is part of the US-led coalition against ISIS and many campaigns has been issued in Finnish to promote for attacks. It said at the time it saw an increased risk of an attack committed by ISIS militants.

Ministry of Interior ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in Finland and increased security measures in airports and train stations.

Many of Turku’s Iraqi, Syrian and Islamic community condemned the attacks and organised a rally of solidarity in the city’s main square.

In 2015, Finland received some 32,500 asylum seekers during the migration crisis.

The number decreased to 10,000 after Finland increased its measures and migration laws, but authorities indicate that over 4,000 requests had disappeared since 2015 raising fears of increased number of illegal residents.