August 23, 2017 / 12:32 PM / a year ago

Finnish police arrest two new suspects, doubt knifeman's identity in Turku attack

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish police said on Wednesday they had arrested two more suspects in connection with last week’s stabbing spree that killed two women and wounded eight other people.

The 18-year-old Moroccan Ilyas Berrouh, covers his face during the initial remand hearing of suspects of killing two people and attempting to kill eight others with terrorist intent (with reasonable doubt) in Turku last week, at the Southwest Finland District Court in Turku, Finland, August 22, 2017. Ilyas Berrouh is not the one who commited the actual stabbing attack at the Turku Market Square. LEHTIKUVA / Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

Police have previously detained the main suspect, a Moroccan asylum seeker, and three other Moroccan men in connection with the killings on Friday in the city of Turku. An international arrest warrant has been issued for a fifth.

The incident has been treated as Finland’s first suspected Islamist militant attack.

The two new suspects gave different stories to Finnish and Swedish authorities, telling the former they were from Algeria and the latter they were Moroccan, the National Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

The main suspect has been named as 18-year-old Moroccan Abderrahman Mechkah, who on Tuesday told a court he was responsible for the attack but denied a terrorist motive.

The 24-year-old Moroccan Abdederrazak Essarioul, covers his face during the initial remand hearing of suspects in the stabbing attack in Turku last week, at the Southwest Finland District Court in Turku, Finland, August 22, 2017. There were five suspects in the attack: the one who was the actual stabber and four others, like Abdederrazak Essarioul, who did not commit the actual stabbing attack but was an accomplice in the act somehow. LEHTIKUVA / Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

Police said his identity is likely to be false.

“We have reasons to suspect that he has given wrong information to authorities when coming to the country,” Detective Superintendent Markus Laine of the National Bureau of Investigation told Reuters.

The man identified as Mechkah arrived in Finland in 2016, lived in a reception centre in Turku and was denied asylum before the attack.

He had earlier spent time in Germany, according to authorities. German media reported on Tuesday that he had used several false identities in the country, and that he was charged with causing bodily harm.

“We can’t comment yet on his motives... he has not been willing to answer all questions,” Laine said.

He said the police had not so far found any links to the van attack in Barcelona, Spain, which killed 13 people and wounded scores of others a day earlier.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack in Spain. Police said all members of a 12-man cell they believe to have been responsible for the attack had been either killed or arrested in the days after.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell, Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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