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President Niinistö: "This weekend, terror came to Finland"

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö met with reporters on Sunday, expressing concern over the online debate following Friday's apparent terrorist incident in Turku. Meanwhile the top interior ministry official said "Finland remains the world's safest country" as Muslim and Moroccan groups condemned the attack.

Sauli Niinistö
Sauli Niinistö spoke to the press at his official residence, Mäntyniemi. Image: Yle

"This weekend, terror came to Finland," said President Sauli Niinistö on Sunday afternoon. He held a press conference at his official residence in Helsinki's Meilahti district.

He praised those who had helped the victims and tried to stop the attacker, as well as police and rescue staff.

"The Finnish police settled the matter quickly. Their work, and that of the rescue workers, has played its part in returning the sense of security. We can have confidence in the authorities' operations," said Niinistö.

Social media worries

The president expressed his concern over the immigration debate on social media.

"This arouses lots of feelings and debate – that is understandable."

But, in this discussion, he said, "the desire to misunderstand has been greater than the desire to understand. It would be good to flip this around," he added.

While one may disagree, it is important to try to understand others, stressed Niinistö.

"Only together can we get through these things," the president said. He pointed out that he had taken part in the online discussion via his official Facebook account, thanking commentators there for their civil discussion.

On Saturday, Niinistö issued a statement on the events and laid flowers at the site where the attack began on Turku's central Market Square.

Niinistö said that he had been nearby at his summer residence in Naantali, writing a speech when he received news of the attack, just a few minutes after it occurred.

Nerg: "The world's safest country"

Niinistö echoed earlier comments by the Interior Ministry's Permanent Secretary Päivi Nerg, calling on anyone with concerns about suspicious behaviour by others to report them – without snooping on anyone or taking justice into their own hands.

Interviewed by Yle on Sunday, Nerg said that the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) is now monitoring about 300 people who have some links to international terrorism. Nerg added that despite the apparent terror attack, "Finland remains the world's safest country".

Islamic, Moroccan groups condemn

The Islamic Council of Finland (Sine) issued a strong condemnation of Friday's assault and of the violent ideology that apparently lay behind it.

"Violence against innocent civilians – whether it happens in Turku, Barcelona or Charlottesville – violates the basic principles of Islam and all other religions, as well as general human values," the group said in a statement on Sunday.

The association noted that at least two of those who rushed to help the victims and stop the attack were Muslims. The Moroccan Forum in Finland also released a statement strongly condemning the assault.

NBI: Suspect is now speaking

Also on Sunday afternoon, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said that the suspected assailant has begun to answer officers' questions through an interpreter. On Saturday the Moroccan teenager had refused to speak. The NBI has declined to reveal any of what he said. The 18-year-old was a resident of a reception centre for asylum seekers in Turku. He is expected to be remanded on Monday.

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