Two people were killed and 8 were injured in a stabbing spree in the Finnish city of Turku on Friday, police said, after officers shot one suspect and warned several others could still be at large.
“There are eight victims in the stabbing. Two dead and six injured,” Turku police tweeted after the assault in a market square.
Police shot one suspect in the legs and arrested him. Security forces wrote on Twitter that police were “looking for other possible perpetrators”.
“They ask the population to leave and avoid central Turku,” the tweet added.
The stabbing spree comes with Europe on high alert a day after drivers slammed vehicles into pedestrians in two attacks in Spain, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 100 others. The militant Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack.
In Turku, images of a body covered in a white blanket at the scene of the stabbing was published on some online news sites, including the local daily Turun Sanomat.
The attack took place in the heart of the port city in southwestern Finland, just after 3pm in a bustling neighbourhood.
“I saw an old woman, I tried to help her. She was bleeding all over her body,” Wali Hashi, who witnessed the attack, said.
“She was wounded to her neck with the knife… I took her aside.” Another witness, who did not want to give his name, told public television YLE: “A young woman screamed really loudly at one corner of the square. We saw a man on the square, with a knife in his hand and he was waving it.” Central Turku — located about 140 kilometres from the capital Helsinki — was swiftly cordoned off and stores and restaurants closed.
Police ID suspect as Moroccan
Police are now investigating a stabbing spree in Finland that left two people dead as a terrorist attack, police said Saturday, identifying the suspect as an 18-year-old Moroccan citizen.
“The incidents were initially investigated as murders, but in light of further information received during the night, the offences include now murders with terrorist intent and their attempts,” police said in a statement.
The suspect’s “identity is known to the police. He is an 18-year-old Moroccan citizen,” it said, providing no other details about him.
Police on Saturday raised the number of injured in the attack from six to eight, adding that the injured included an Italian national and two Swedes. The other victims were all Finns.
Police also arrested five people in a Turku apartment overnight.
“There was a raid and we have now six suspects in custody, the main suspect and five others,” detective superintendent Markus Laine of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) told AFP.
“We are investigating the role of these five other people but we are not sure yet if they had anything to do with (the attack)… We will interrogate them, after that we can tell you more. But they had been in contact with the main suspect,” Laine said.
In June, Finland’s intelligence and security agency Supo raised the country’s terror threat level by a notch, from “low” to “elevated”, the second notch on a four-tier scale.
It said at the time it saw an increased risk of an attack committed by the the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.
– Flags at half-mast –
Police have said they are collaborating with the Finnish Immigration Service and international authorities in their investigation.
“Several national authorities are participating in the investigation. We are also working together with our foreign colleagues to investigate the case,” it said in a tweet.
The suspect is being treated in hospital in intensive care for a gunshot wound to the thigh.
The motive for the attack was not yet known.
“We haven’t yet interrogated the main suspect because of his medical condition,” Laine said.
Police also said they had impounded a white Fiat Ducato van suspected of being tied to Friday’s stabbing, but provided no other information about how it was linked.
On Saturday, the interior ministry ordered flags to fly at half-mast across Finland in honour of the victims.
The Nordic country also raised its emergency readiness nationwide after the stabbing, increasing security at airports and train stations and putting more officers on the streets.
Media reports in Finland said police believed the suspect had picked his victims at random, but Laine could not confirm that.
Police have said it was likely the suspect acted alone, but said Friday they were looking for “other possible perpetrators.”
In Turku, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto attended a vigil held in the Turku Cathedral on Friday evening in honour of the victims.