Finnish police launch terrorism investigation
Two foreign suspects remanded – Finland not believed to be planned target
A man and a woman of foreign origin are in custody on suspicion of financing terror and recruiting people for terrorist activities – the first such investigation in Finland.
Officials investigating the case gave few details at a press conference held on Saturday. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed that the two had been remanded in custody a week earlier.
The police would not disclose the nationality of the suspects, but court documents reveal that one of the suspects, a 34-year-old man, who faces charges of recruiting for terrorism, is a Somali-born transport entrepreneur in Finland.
The woman is 28 years old and is suspected of pro-terrorist fundraising.
The NBI says that other people are under investigation as well, but no new arrests have been made. House searches have been conducted in the Helsinki region and evidence has been collected for the case.
The alleged planned terrorist activity is not believed to have been aimed at Finland. The target country was not named, but officials said that it is “not very close” to Finland.
Terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish National Defence College says that it is possible that the suspected activities are linked with the Islamist al-Shabaab rebels, who control much of Somalia.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it were al-Shabaab, but it could also be some other group”, Ranstorp said to Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday.
People have been recruited from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway to al-Shabaab training camps in Somalia. In December last year two Somali-born men were given prison sentences in Sweden for planning a suicide attack in Somalia on behalf of al-Shabaab.
Finland’s Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) used surveillance to get evidence on the suspects.
SUPO deputy chief Olli Kolstela says that the case involves providing support for terrorist activities, not the planning of a specific attack. He also said that it is an isolated case.
SUPO has not yet changed its assessment of the threat of terror targeting Finland, which still remains low.
“However, we have emphasised for a long time that activities that support terrorism are possible in Finland”, Kolstela says.
SUPO has previously said that it is monitoring a few dozen people suspected of having links with international terrorism. Kolstela says that the two who were arrested are among them.
The two suspects were arrested earlier this month, after which a number of house searches were conducted. Police found documents and computer files which are now being analysed by the police.
Helsingin Sanomat has learned that the sums of money involved are relatively small. The head of the investigation, Kaj-Erik Björkqvist, does not comment on the matter.
Björkqvist says that the two suspects have been cooperative. Their continued imprisonment will be reviewed on the coming Saturday at the earliest.
The NBI plans to report on the progress of the investigation in about a week’s time.
The chairman the Finnish Somali League, Abdirashid Awad Dirie, says that his organisation condemns all contact with terrorists.
“We don’t want this kind of recruitment to take place in Finland”, he said on Saturday.
More on this subject:
BACKGROUND: Al Shabaab seeks recruits abroad
Previously in HS International Edition:
Terror threats in Sweden and Denmark seen to have no direct bearing on Finland (11.1.2011)
COMMENTARY: Terror comes to Sweden (14.12.2010)
Terror attack in Finland “possible”, but threat is seen to be low (14.12.2010)
Terror fight sparks anguish in immigrant suburbs in Nordic region (3.10.2006)