Finnish police arrest two more in stabbing case

Helsinki (AFP) –


Finnish police said Wednesday they had arrested two new suspects over last week's stabbing spree that killed two people and which investigators are treating as the country's first terror attack.

"Two men have been arrested suspected of preparing an offence to be committed with terrorist intent," the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said in a statement.

News agency STT reported that the men were arrested in Turku, the southwestern city where the stabbings took place. The attacker killed two Finnish women in the attack in a market square, wounding eight other people.

The nationality of the two new suspects has not been confirmed "because they have given contradicting information," said the police statement.

"To Finnish authorities, the men have claimed to be Algerian citizens, whereas they have told Swedish authorities they are from Morocco," the NBI said, without elaborating.

Investigators also have doubts about the identity of the main suspect, whom police initially identified as Abderrahman Mechkah, an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum seeker who carried out the stabbing.

"In Germany he had more identities. The name in my mind has not been confirmed officially, nor his age," NBI chief investigator Olli Toyras told AFP on Tuesday.

He was formally placed in custody on Tuesday suspected of two murders and eight attempted murders "with terrorist intent".

Finnish media reported on Wednesday that Mechkah had shown interest in the Islamic State (IS) group.

At the refugee housing centre where he lived, "people noticed his radical views and behaviour. He spoke of Finns as infidels and asked for tips on how to join IS," public broadcaster YLE reported.

Contacted by AFP, the head of the Red Cross in southwestern Finland, Pauli Heikkinen, confirmed that the centre's staff had contacted authorities about the suspect's behaviour.

"Police are now investigating these links (to IS) and YLE's claims," he said.

Three other suspects arrested hours after the attack -- Abdederrazak Essarioul, Ilyas Berrouh and Mohamed Bakier, all identified by police as Moroccan citizens -- were also placed in custody on Tuesday.

Police have yet to disclose the nature of their alleged involvement in the crime.

Meanwhile, Abderrahman Mechkah, who was shot by police in the thigh during his arrest minutes after the attack, was transferred from the Turku University Hospital to the Hameenlinna prison hospital on Wednesday, the NBI said.