P2017-01 Stabbings in Turku 18 August 2017

On Friday, 18 August 2017, at around 16:00 hours, a Moroccan 22-year-old asylum seeker stabbed a woman who was standing on the Turku Market Square, a man who came to help the woman and immediately afterwards, a second woman who was close by. The assailant ran through the centre of the square towards the Puutori Square along Kauppiaskatu Street stabbing people he met.

Soon after the first stabbings, the Emergency Response Centre received several emergency calls. The Emergency Response Centre quickly alerted the Police and the emergency medical services. Over the next five minutes, the Emergency Response Centre received 64 emergency calls, which caused the ERC to become overloaded.

The police patrol closest to the Market Square was on scene within 30 seconds of being assigned. The patrol set out after the perpetrator as those present pointed out which way the assailant had gone. A second police patrol was in the vicinity of the bus station, from where it started driving towards the Market Square via Brahenkatu Street. The patrol noticed the assailant coming their way, made a U turn after passing him, caught up with the perpetrator and got out of the vehicle. A police officer gave orders to the assailant and shot him in a lower limb. The second police officer used a Taser. The assailant lost his capacity to act and the police patrol apprehended the man after around three minutes after the first stabbing.

The first emergency medical services to be alerted where the field commander, a doctor unit and one ambulance. The first information was that only one person had been stabbed. Soon, the number of victims changed to two and the Emergency Response Centre alerted a second ambulance. The Emergency Response Centre notified the emergency medical services that shots had been fired in the area. The Emergency Response Centre found out that there were at least five or six victims and notified the emergency medical services, also alerting more ambulances to the location. The emergency medical services had difficulty to form an idea of the safety of the site. The number of perpetrator was unclear, as was the identity of the shooter. After a couple of minutes, the Emergency Response Centre was able to inform the emergency medical services of the perpetrator having been apprehended by the police and that it had been the police who had fired a weapon. The emergency medical service units arrived on scene.

The emergency medical services started examining the condition of the patients in order from the Market Square to the Puutori Square. The field commander of the emergency medical services guided the arriving ambulances to the victims. The victims were given the necessary first aid and transported to the Turku University Hospital.

Turku University Hospital was notified of the large number of victims at 16:10 hours. The emergency room readiness level was raised. The first victims arrived at the emergency room 15 minutes later, at which time the raising of the readiness was still partially incomplete. The rest of the patients encountered by the emergency medical services arrived at the emergency room within the next 15 minutes.

The assailant stabbed a total of ten persons, of whom two died and eight were injured. From a medical perspective, all victims and the perpetrator received the medical care they required in a timely manner. After the incident, there was a great need for psychosocial support.

The first official bulletin was published by the Southwestern Finland Police Department at 16:37 hours. According to the Twitter message, several persons had been stabbed in central Turku, and people were asked to avoid the city centre. Ten minutes later, the police department announced that the police had shot one suspect and that the perpetrator was in police custody.

The situation remained unclear for a rather long time. The Police investigated whether any others had played a role in the incident, but no other perpetrators were found. The Police and the Finnish Border Guard raised their readiness level in Turku and also nationally. The Government held a meeting in the evening of the day of the incident. A prayer event for all religions was arranged in the Turku Cathedral at 21:00 hours. Present were representatives from different religions and, representing the State, the President of the Republic, three cabinet ministers and the Supreme Police Command.

The perpetrator came to Finland 15 months before the incident, in May 2016. Upon entry into the country, he gave a false name and claimed to be a minor. All this time, he was registered at the Pansio reception centre of the Turku Reception Centre. In November 2016, the perpetrator's application for an asylum was rejected, and he lodged an appeal with the administrative court. The appeal process was still pending at the time of the incident.

At the turn of the year 2016–2017, the perpetrator's closest friends had noticed his interest in radical Islamism. In January 2017, the Southwestern Finland Police Department received a tip of the perpetrator's radicalisation. The tip was forwarded from the police department to the Finnish Security Intelligence Service and the National Bureau of Investigation, but it did not lead to any practical action.

During the spring of 2017, the perpetrator's musings related to radical Islamism strengthened, which manifested as the perpetrator's willingness to talk about ISIS and discuss religion with the other asylum seekers. In the early summer of 2017, during Ramadan, the month of fasting, the perpetrator increased his visits at prayer meetings and his interest in everyday issues decreased. Towards the end of the summer, the perpetrator's thoughts were increasingly drawn by ISIS. According to his friend, he also became joyless, did not sleep at nights, became more aggressive in his speech and was hardly in any contact with other people. The perpetrator's best friend noticed the change in the perpetrator and was worried about him.

On the day before the stabbings, a terrorist attack occurred in Barcelona; the perpetrator showed interest in the incident to his friend. On the night before the incident, he decided to carry out the attack and sent a farewell message to his friend. He was ready and willing to die during the attack. On the morning of the attack, the perpetrator wrote a manifest in which he justified his coming act by Jihadist ideology and goals. The perpetrator travelled to the Turku city centre, visited a prayer room for a Friday prayer, recorded his manifest on video and published it on a messaging service. The perpetrator went to the Turku Market Square and committed the stabbings.

The investigation team issues the following recommendations:

• Through resource allocation and other steering measures, the Finnish Immigration Service and the Ministry of Justice shall ensure that the average overall processing time of asylum decisions and the related appeals lodged with the administrative courts decreases significantly from the current time, which is around one and a half years. The accelerated procedure must be used when allowed by the law. Furthermore, the processing must be accelerated if a security authority considers the applicant to be a security threat.

• The Finnish Immigration Service shall improve its procedures in such a manner that it uses all reasonably available means of determining the identity and age of the asylum seekers. These means include at least the particular investigation of the matter during the asylum interview, the utilisation of age estimation measures, and the requesting of information from the applicant's home country, if the threat towards the applicant is not caused by the state.

• The Ministry of the Interior shall ensure that an advisory service is established at the Finnish Immigration Service or some other third-sector actor where various questions and concerns regarding asylum seekers can be directed. The service must know the co-operating parties such as the Police, religious organisations and various parties offering assistance; it must give advice; and direct issues and persons to the right place. The service must be marketed in many ways, for example in reception centres, religious organisations, in the Web and during meetings with asylum seekers.

• The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health shall jointly analyse how to arrange funding and steering for the organisations necessary for preventing radicalisation in order to achieve long-term and nationwide operation. The authorities and other actors must be made fully aware of the services offered by these organisations so that those needing help can be directed to the right place.

• The National Police Board and the Finnish Security Intelligence Service must jointly agree upon clear operating models preventing radicalisation, including a sufficient amount of observation and building trust close to people and communities, and the ability to give timely help to people taking their first steps on the path of radicalisation, guiding them to the suitable services (such as health care, social services and various organisations).

• The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health shall harmonise the command and communications procedures for incidents involving several authorities so that the necessary authorities are able to and are allowed to be involved in all sudden, major incidents. The key actors are the Emergency Response Centre, the Police, the Rescue Services, the Emergency Medical Services and Social Services (incl. psychosocial support).

• The Ministry of the Interior and the Emergency Response Centre Administration shall develop new procedures for rapidly warning people. Sending warnings to mobile phones on site as text messages and through applications (such as the 112 Suomi application) would be effective. The benefits of a mobile phone application would be the possibility to give a warning utilising loud sounds, lights and vibration, multiple languages and clear instructions.

• The Government Situation Centre shall agree with the administrative sectors on how situational information will be smoothly and immediately transmitted from the different administrative sectors and the agencies under them to the Government Situation Centre for distribution to the government and the different administrative sectors. The objective must be that the government and the necessary administrative sectors are able to take action without delay.

• The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health shall prepare regulations under which, should an accident or a violent crime take place, the Police and the health care system must disclose information on the identity of the victims and their immediate family for the needs of psychosocial support services.

P2017-01 Turku Report (pdf, 1.65 Mt)

Published 14.6.2018