Police say Finland stab attacker 'going after women' as terror motive probed

Police say Finland stab attacker 'going after women' as terror motive probed
A woman places a candle by floral tributes for the victims of an attack at Turku Market Square yesterday. Picture: AP

A suspect detained accused of stabbing two people to death in a knife attack in Finland is being investigated over murder with possible terrorist intent.

It appears that the man - an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum-seeker - targeted women during his rampage in two public squares, said Crista Granroth of the National Bureau of Investigation.

"We think the attacker was going after women," she said, adding that one man was wounded with a knife slash when he tried to stand between the attacker and a woman.

The Security Intelligence Service said the deadly stabbing attack was "a likely terror act".

Pekka Hiltunen said the agency was investigating the suspects' connections to the Islamic State group, since IS "has previously encouraged this kind of behaviour".

The suspect had yet to be questioned, while four others - also Moroccans living in Turku who know him - were detained on suspicion of involvement.

The dead from the apparent indiscriminate attack on Friday are Finnish citizens, while the eight wounded include one Italian, one Briton and one Swede.

Police said the suspect, whose name has not been released, was subdued with a shot in the thigh and that he is in hospital under guard.

Investigators say he came to Finland in early 2016 seeking asylum.

Police said they were working with colleagues from law enforcement abroad. The NBI said others involved in the investigation were the Security Intelligence Service, police in Turku and the European Union's police agency, Europol.

Europol was said to be helping to check whether there are connections to the events in Barcelona.

It was not known if the attack was linked to the decision in June by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service to raise its threat assessment.

At the time, it cited the country's "stronger profile within the radical Islamist propaganda". Finland was considered part of the coalition against the Islamic State group, it said.

Three of those wounded were still in intensive care. Four remain in hospital and four have been released. The youngest victim was 15, the oldest 67, police said.

A man visiting from Sweden said he was stabbed in the arm and tried to help another victim who died.

"I tried to stop the violent bleeding from her throat ... The woman was so badly injured that she died in my arms," Hassan Zubier told the Expressen tabloid.

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat said one of the dead was a woman belonging to the local chapter of Jehovah's Witnesses who was handing out leaflets at a central Turku square.

A spokesman for the religious group told the tabloid they believed the woman was randomly attacked.

Flowers and candles were placed on a square in Turku, and Finnish flags flew at half-mast across the country.

"We need to stick together now, hate is not to be answered by hate," Prime Minister Juha Sipila said in a tweet.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, wrote on Twitter that "Europeans stand with #Turku" and called it "another cowardly terrorist attack on innocents".

- AP

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