SUPO and local police investigate firebombing and unexploded bomb incidents for possible connections with radical Islamist website
Experts say online messages may be false
A firebombing at an unmanned filling station and the discovery of an unexploded bomb in Helsinki during the weekend have been mentioned on a website maintained by hard-line Islamists.
US terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann reported on Twitter on the threats that had been made against Finland on the internet by “online militant Abu Sulaiman al-Nasser”.
“In his latest msg, Abu Sulaiman emphasized the significance of a molotov cocktail attack on Sunday targeting a gas station in Tapaninvainio”, Kohlmann wrote in his tweet.
In the early hours of Sunday a firebomb was set off at a Neste Oil filling station in Tapaninvainio in the north of Helsinki. On Friday, an unexploded canister bomb was found in the courtyard of a food store in the West Pasila neighbourhood.
Police say that they are not sure if the makeshift device was supposed to cause an explosion or a fire.
Swedish terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp does not see any serious terrorist threats facing Finland at the moment.
“It is very hard to say if this is just a prank or a real threat”, says Ranstorp, who works at Sweden’s National Defence College.
Ranstorp feels that the location of the canister bomb and the target of the firebomb attack seemed to be fairly random. “Terror attacks are usually targeted at power structures. Planning a larger attack takes time, and usually there is no advance warning.”
A message concerning the Pasila bomb appeared on the internet on Saturday.
The Finnish-language message included the location of the bomb, and declared: “We pray to Allah that the attempt will succeed next time”.
Previously Abu Sulaiman has urged attacks against Finnish peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. A man with the same name has also been connected to last year’s bombing in Stockholm.
Kohlmann says on his Twitter page that Abu Sulaiman published instructions for making Molotov cocktails.
Ranstorp describes Abu Sulaiman as a blogger who might have contacts with al-Qaeda. His identity and his whereabouts are unknown. Ranstorp also does not see him as a leading figure in al-Qaeda, contrary to previous characterisations in Helsingin Sanomat and other Finnish media.
Kohlmann says that Abu Sulaiman is probably Moroccan. “Judging from everything, he has lived or visited much in Northern Europe and the Nordic Countries”, Kohlmann said to Helsingin Sanomat.
Kohlmann sees Abu Sulaiman as an influential figure in Islamist online discussions.
“On the other hand, Kohlmann feels that it is possible that the online messages might just be a part of a media game.
The website where the messages were published sometimes contains hard-core al-Qaeda material. Ranstorp says that the website is maintained in Sweden, and that it is being monitored closely by security agencies.
Now the pages are also being monitored by Finland’s Security Intelligence Service (SUPO), which is working with the Helsinki police in the investigation of the Pasila and Tapaninvainio cases.
“At this point we cannot confirm whether or not these are connected in any way with al-Qaeda or other terrorist activity”, says Liinu Lehto-Seljavara, head of communications for SUPO.
SUPO nevertheless takes the matter seriously.
“Threats like that are routine for SUPO. However, I have never heard before that there would have been a threat against Finnish civilian targets.”
Evan Kohlmann on Twitter