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Finnish police investigating fatal stabbing an act of terrorism

Memorial candles were left at the Turku Market Square for the victims of Friday's stabbings. (Lehtikuva/Reuters)

Authorities in Finland said Saturday they were investigating a fatal stabbing attack in a southwestern city as terrorism.

Two people were killed and eight others wounded Friday when an 18-year-old Moroccan man went on a stabbing rampage, police said. He was shot in the leg by police and was being treated in intensive care.

The attack unfolded in Turku, about 100 miles west of Helsinki, jolting a continent still learning the full extent of a terrorist strike targeting Spain, where police were trying to piece together details of two deadly vehicular assaults and an explosion at a house that police said had been used by the attackers.

Spanish probe points to wider network in attacks; American among dead

The Islamic State claimed links to the attacks in Spain, the nation’s worst in more than a decade.

Police in Finland initially said they did not believe the stabbing was related to terrorism. However, Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation took control of the case and was investigating with the assistance of Finnish security services.

Saying new information had emerged overnight, police in southwest Finland said Saturday the stabbings were being investigated as murders with “terrorist intent.” The investigative bureau said it had reason to believe the attack was planned in advance but did not offer further details.

Security services said it was the first suspected terrorist attack in Finland, and that the overall risk level remained relatively low.

Police said the suspect had arrived in the country as an asylum seeker last year. Four other suspects, also Moroccan citizens, were arrested in connection with the stabbings, police said, and there was an international search warrant for a sixth suspect.

The two people who died of stabbing wounds were Finnish women, police said. Among the injured were a Swede, a Briton and an Italian.

Finland’s prime minister, Juha Sipila, offered condolences to relatives of the victims and called the day’s events “tragic.” The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, also weighed in to condemn the attack, saying its gravity was heightened by the attacks in Spain hours earlier.

Security was tightened across the country, including at airports and train stations. National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen warned civilians that they might see armed security personnel in the streets.

A video circulated Friday on Twitter in which users said a man could be heard crying “Allahu akbar,” but others replied saying that the shouts were Finnish for “watch out.” An eyewitness told Turun Sanomat, a Turku-based newspaper, that she was buying potatoes in the market square when she saw people running and screaming. Among the victims, she said, was a woman with a small child.

Also Friday, police in the western German city of Wuppertal were searching for one or more suspects in a stabbing that left one person dead and another wounded, though the case was being treated as a homicide and is not linked to terrorism, police said.

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