News |

Monday’s papers: Finland relives a nightmare, peels back the mask of terror, ponders a way forward

Not surprisingly, Finnish newspapers devote extensive real estate to coverage of last Friday’s deadly knife rampage in the southwestern city of Turku. Dailies examine profiles of the attacker, the everyday heroes who intervened to help women under attack, and the police officers who acted in exemplary fashion to neutralise the threat. They also consider ways to prevent similar acts of terror.

Ihmiset laskevat kynttilöitä turun kauppatorilla
Candlelight memorial for victims of Friday's deadly stabbing attack at Turku's Central Market Square. Image: AOP

Tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat reports Monday that the 18 year-old man suspected of killing two people and injuring eight others cut an odd figure in Turku’s Perno district even before he rose to notoriety on Friday.

The Moroccan man had been a familiar sight at some local establishments – when he was flush with cash, he frequented a local pizzeria as often as three times weekly. On other occasions, he spent time at a local bar where he could be seen playing cards or billiards.

Although the suspect’s age was reported as 18, locals say he appeared to be years older. He sometimes visited a nearby football field with other Moroccans. He didn’t play the game, but sat alone on a bench or paced back and forth, speaking to himself.

“I’m no doctor, but he seemed depressed. As if he was being driven by something inside,” the proprietor of the local pizza restaurant said. However, he noted that the man never spoke of himself or any personal problems.

When he was low on cash, he would beg for discounts or borrow from acquaintances. The pizzeria owner said that of late, he seemed to have to dig deeper into his pockets than before. Seemingly close to broke, he would eat pizza off his friends, not caring whether or not they wanted to share.

To an outsider, the pizza shop owner said, the man seemed to lack social skills. He told IS that on several occasions he’d been forced to reprimand the would-be assailant over his behaviour and even evict him from the restaurant.

Aamulehti spoke with two members of the same mosque that the Turku attacker attended. The men revealed that the 18 year-old Moroccan stopped attending the mosque in Kuppittaa two months or so before the attack. They added that the community now feels betrayed by the man.

The Moroccans told AL that after news of the attack broke, they found out that the man had told officials that he was Palestinian when he filed an asylum application. He apparently lied about his origin because he would not be granted asylum as a Moroccan. However officials uncovered the truth and denied his application.

According to the men, the young attacker seemed like someone who had not been able to find his place in society.

A tale of Hasan and Hassan

Like other dailies, Iltalehti profiles some of last Friday’s heroes who rushed to the assistance of the women under attack by a knife-wielding assailant. One of them was 26 year-old Turku resident Hasan Alazawii, who was on his way to the Turku market square to purchase flowers when he heard screaming.

Alazawii was still in his car when he saw the attacker making his escape. At that moment, another bystander, Hassan Zubier, rushed on to the scene to help a woman who lay on the ground. As Zubier tried to assist the woman, the attacker stabbed him and ran off. Alazawii followed in pursuit, not even registering that he had also been knifed – in the neck.

“I tried to keep after the attacker until I noticed that the left side of my body was covered in blood and that blood was gushing from my neck,” he recounted. It later emerged that the wound he sustained was 12 centimetres deep. Alazawii told IL that he has since received messages from hundreds of well-wishers.

Hassan Zubier left hospital on Sunday to join hundreds of Turku residents who flocked to the site of the attack to observe a minute of silence in memory of the victims.

Praise for men in blue, flack for ambulance services

Meanwhile IS continues with a look at Friday’s paid heroes, highlighting the crucial role played by local law enforcement, who successfully intervened to bring down the assailant, putting an end to the bloody rampage.

It was a two-person patrol that eventually saved the day and prevented further bloodshed. According to eyewitnesses, the man had grabbed a woman by the hair and had pulled her head back to expose her neck as though he intended to slash her neck.

Once police arrived on the scene, they sprang into action, drawing their weapons and aiming at the suspect.

“The first shot stopped him in action,” said Inspector Kai Loukkaanhuhta. Officials said that the duo acted with cool heads and steady nerves. “Both are experienced officers. By nature, they are both calm and stable,” he added.

Following their quick action, the patrol administered first aid to the attacker as well as victims.

Local paper Turun Sanomat runs a story in which one of the witnesses to Friday’s incident complained that it took emergency services 25 minutes to arrive on the scene. Waheedullah Hussaini, a driver for the food delivery service Wolt, said that he witnessed the attack as he was leaving a restaurant near the market square.

He recalled that the man stabbed a woman and ran off, but then returned when he saw passsersby helping the woman. He attacked them with the knife before running off again. He said that the man was armed with two knives. Hussaini himself attempted to help one of the women stabbed before following in pursuit of the assailant. He said that he gave up the chase and instead tried to assist one of the victims. He stayed with her until ambulance services arrived on the scene, but said she lost a great deal of blood in the interim.

Time for reflection -- and action

Leading circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat ponders what security measures can be undertaken to prevent acts of international terrorism similar to last Friday’s. The paper referenced National Coalition Party MP Ilkka Kanerva, the head of the Parliamentary Defence Committee, who called for speedier asylum decisions, as well as a new interior security report.

Officials have said on many occasions that so-called lone wolf attacks are difficult to anticipate and head off. Finland’s Security Police Supo has noted that there had been no concrete information about the Turku knife attack that would have allowed officials to prevent it.

Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Päivi Nerg said for the past 18 months, Finnish authorities have been preparing for the possibility of a terror strike. Draft legislation designed to increase security measures and boost police intelligence gathering powers are already in Parliament or in the works.

Officials and politicians also want to keep a closer eye on people who have already had their asylum applications rejected. Currently Finland has about 700 such cases. If they don’t leave the country voluntarily, they are put into a deportation queue. They are usually required to report to police at intervals but officials are now considering how to increase scrutiny of such individuals.

Police and politicians also want to find ways to monitor radicalisation trends in Finland. Supo says that it has already identified signs that a radical Islamic network is operating in Finland. They want to determine when and where the Turku attacker may have been radicalised.

Officials agreed that further efforts to combat terrorism rest on new intelligence gathering legislation that will come before Parliament this autumn.

Latest in: News


Our picks