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Police probe apparent arson at asylum seekers' camp

Police are investigating the case as possible vandalism, with the presumption that an outsider attempted to set the tent on fire.

Rautatientorilla oleva turvapaikanhakijoiden mielenosoitusteltta syttyi tuleen varhain perjantaiaamuna.
Qasim Khudhair från Irak och Tariq Mommand från Afghanistan var på plats när branden började
Qasim Khudhair from Iraq and Tariq Mommand from Afghanistan were at the site when the tent burned early Friday. Image: Carina Bruun / Yle

Helsinki Police are investigating an incident early Friday in the city centre when someone apparently tried to burn down a tent in an asylum seekers' protest camp.

The daily Helsingin Sanomat was first to report the incident.

Demonstrator Tariq Mommand from Afghanistan told Yle Swedish-language news reporter Carina Bruun that they noticed part of a tent smouldering.

"Around 4.30 am my friend was going around the tent to check that everything was OK. He yelled 'it's burning, it's burning'. I saw the fire on the lower part of the tent and took my phone out. My friend ran after a man who was leaving on a bicycle, but we couldn't catch him," says Tariq Mommand.

Demonstrators say that one person was injured in the incident and was treated at a health centre.

Inspector Patrik Karlsson told HS that police are investigating it as a case of vandalism with the presumption that an outsider attempted to set the tent on fire. He said that there was a substantially-sized hole in the tent. Police are checking surveillance camera footage for more clues.

Police still investigating Sunday incident

Asylum seekers have been protesting what they say is an unjust decision and deportation system for weeks on a square between the main Railway Station and the Ateneum Art Museum in downtown Helsinki. 

Earlier this week, police said that an asylum seeker was attacked with a gas spray at the camp on Sunday evening. Police say the asylum seeker is also suspected of attempted assault.

On March 8, a protester reportedly attempted suicide near the site.

11:08 Updated with detail about Friday's and Sunday's incidents. 17:30 Update: A canister was found near the scene.

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