HELSINKI, Finland — Finnish 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 act had been investigated as murder, but during the night we received additional information which indicates that the criminal offenses are now terrorist killings,” police said in a statement.
The suspect’s “identity is known to the police. He is an 18-year-old Moroccan citizen,” it said.
The was an asylum seeker who targeted women in his attack, police said.
“We think that the attacker especially targeted women, and the men were wounded after coming to the defence of the women,” superintendent Christa Granroth of Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation told reporters.
Two women were killed in Friday’s attack, and eight other people were injured. Among the eight were six women and two men, police said.
“One man was injured trying to help a victim and one man tried to stop the attacker,” Granroth said.
Police arrested five people in a Turku apartment overnight in their investigation into the stabbing rampage.
Police shot and wounded the knife-wielding suspect on Friday, arresting him minutes after an afternoon stabbing spree at a Turku market square. Police on Saturday raised the number of injured in the attack from six to eight.
“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 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.
The suspect is being treated in hospital in intensive care for a gunshot wound to the thigh.
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 added they were looking for “other possible perpetrators.”
Central Turku was swiftly cordoned off after the attack, which occurred just after 4:00 p.m. (1300 GMT), although the area was reopened several hours later.
Finland also raised its emergency readiness across the country after the stabbing, increasing security at airports and train stations and putting more officers on the streets.
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.