Finnish police are investigating an attack on Friday as an act of terror after a young Moroccan man fatally stabbed two people and wounded six others in a town west of the capital Helsinki.
The suspect, an 18-year-old who came to Finland as an asylum seeker last year, has so far refused to answer questions relating to the attack, according to the country’s National Bureau of Investigations. Four other Moroccan nationals have been arrested and police said on Saturday a further suspect remains at large. An international arrest warrant has been issued as part of the effort to catch him.
The main suspect, who is in hospital after police shot him in the lower body, had appeared to target women as he wielded his knife, Detective Sergeant Krista Granroth said at a press conference. Two men were wounded as they tried to assist the victims, while both the deceased were women. Those injured include an Italian, a Swede and a U.K. citizen, police said.
If Friday’s attack is proved to have been an act of terror, it would be the first of its kind in Finland, the Security Intelligence Service said.
The stabbings took place just days after Spain suffered its deadliest terrorist attack in more than a decade. Thirteen people were killed after a man drove a van into a crowded tourist area in Barcelona. Another person was killed in a coastal resort town. About 100 more were injured.
Finland’s Interior Minister Paula Risikko described the events in her home country as “shocking,” at a press briefing on Friday. Officials will do their best to uncover the motives behind the crimes, she said.
Police were initially advising people to stay away from the city center and Prime Minister Juha Sipila said in a tweet the government is monitoring the situation closely.
The attack happened at the commercial center of Turku, a port and university town of about 180,000 located about two hours west of Helsinki, the capital. Police said they had deployed extra security measures at the airport and railway stations, with a more visible police presence across the country.
Read more: Five suspected terrorists killed after attacks in Spain
The nation’s Security Intelligence Service in June issued a new terrorist threat assessment, warning that the danger of an attack was higher than previously thought. The most significant threat is posed by individual actors or small groups motivated by radical Islamist propaganda or terrorist organisations encouraging them, it said.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto urged all sides to maintain a peaceful and sober dialogue.
“That is what freedom and responsibility are about,” he said.
— With assistance by Ville Heiskanen, and Anna Molin