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Commissioner: Rapid police response in Turku saved lives

National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen says his force's swift response to the knife attack in Turku likely saved at least one life on Friday. Just three minutes transpired between when the closest unit on patrol received the call and the two responding officers halted the suspect. Kolehmainen says police in Finland have been practicing their responses to many different scenarios for years.

Seppo Kolehmainen appeared on Yle's morning programme on Monday, August 21. Image: Yle

The commanding officer of Finland's national police force Seppo Kolehmainen says law enforcement officials have been investigating the Friday night knife attack in Turku round-the-clock since the incident took place. 

"This was the first time in the history of our criminal acts that a crime with suspected terrorist intent has been perpetrated. It is heartening that our field units performed admirably in their initial response, and the dangerous situation was stopped in its tracks. I can say with confidence that their quick action saved one life, maybe even more," he told the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle in a Monday morning interview.

He says the Finnish police have been preparing for all manner of situations now for years.

"This is an example in practice that our operating models are spot on and our training has borne fruit.  In this respect, government efforts to beef up security are more than welcome. Our operating environment has changed – the world has changed," the police commissioner said.

Several people who had tried to stop the assailant or help the wounded were injured in the Turku attack. Kolehmainen says that while intervening is extremely laudable and brave, the police force's official recommendation is that bystanders should keep their distance.

"Stay away from the assailant. Back up and call the police to tell them what you see. Every situation is unique, so you can't say that one mode of operation is best, but you can say that it is not worth putting yourself at risk," he said.

Mum about possible terrorist group connections

Finland's police have been silent on the details of the investigation. All that is known at this time is that investigators have spoken with the main suspect and the police have called for him to be imprisoned. Four others have also been detained by the police, but it is not clear if they will be incarcerated.

The main suspect is an 18-year-old Moroccan citizen. Kolehmainen says that the suspect's age is not a particular consideration, but his motive is.

"The question is at what stage he possibly became radicalized and what were the things that influenced this," he says.

The stabbings are being investigated as two counts of murder and several counts of attempted murder with terrorist intent.

So far the police have not commented on if they have discovered any links between the main suspect and terrorist organisations. They have also not confirmed if the main suspect acted alone.

"I can't comment on that. After the investigation, we will be able to see the whole trajectory," says Kolehmainen.