People in Valkea Shopping Centre in Oulu on Friday, 14 June 2024. A man with ties to far-right groups is suspected of two attempted murders for stabbing one and trying to stab another 12-year-old boy in the shopping centre on Thursday, 13 June. (Timo Heikkala – Str / Lehtikuva)

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THE NATIONAL BUREAU of Investigation (KRP) is demanding that a 33-year-old man be remanded for two attempted murders in connection with a stabbing that occurred in a shopping centre at the heart of Oulu on Thursday, 13 June.

KRP on Friday reported that the man is suspected of stabbing a 12-year-old boy and trying to stab another child in Valkea Shopping Centre.

The stabbing occurred completely out of the blue at about 6.35pm, with the suspect approaching one of the children from behind and stabbing him several times with a knife. The suspect then took off to chase down the other child, but he was stopped by a security guard outside the shopping centre with the help of bystanders.

“This came as a total surprise to the young people, and the victim didn’t know the assailant in any way. He had never had anything to do with [the assailant],” Pasi Sorjonen, the director of KRP in Oulu, commented to YLE on Friday. “The target was a defenceless child. It’s brutal and cruel when an adult man comes from behind and starts inflicting serious injuries on a victim with a knife.”

Guards at the shopping centre also administered first aid to the victim, who is in “stable condition” after sustaining serious injuries in the incident, according to KRP.

“I have to also say that the guard who was at the site acted excellently, possibly saving lives,” said Sorjonen.

KRP on Friday stated that with the pre-trial investigation still in its early stages, the motive of the assailant remains unknown. The investigators are aware, though, that the assailant has a history of involvement in far-right activities.

According to YLE, the stabbing victim is a Finnish national of foreign background.

YLE and Helsingin Sanomat on Friday reported that the suspect has previously been found guilty of a number of offences with ties to far-right organisations. The man has received a suspended prison sentence of 18 months for aggravated assault and violation of political freedom in a case consisting of two incidents: a pepper-spray attack against a left-wing politician in Oulu in 2012 and a knife attack against a man at the launch event of a book about the far right in Finland in Jyväskylä in 2013.

He managed to evade law enforcement authorities for 18 months after the stabbing.

The suspect has also taken part in the activities of the Finnish faction of the Nordic Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group that was banned by the Supreme Court of Finland in 2020. The group was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in June 2024.

Both YLE and Helsingin Sanomat wrote that they decided to disclose the identity of the suspect due to the societal significance of the incident.

Thursday’s stabbing also set off a political exchange.

Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) on Thursday linked the stabbing to the emergence of street gangs, a phenomenon the populist right-wing party has repeatedly warned about in the context of immigration-related debates.

“A young person was stabbed in the middle of the day, in the middle of a shopping centre. I hope the victim makes it. Unfortunately, we’re following the same development as other countries when it comes to street crime, gangs and so on. The government is working hard, but what we already have in this country is horrible,” she wrote on X on Thursday.

She rephrased her message after law enforcement authorities provided details about the far-right ties of the suspect on Friday.

“Extremist movements, drugs, robberies, gangs – the problems are becoming bigger. We have to take the erosion of security seriously, increase penalties and stop hush-hushing all kinds of violence. The Oulu victim is 12 years old, the assailant has a background in far-right movements, says KRP,” she wrote.

Opposition lawmakers latched onto her initial reaction, though.

“In situations like these, a minister should be able to condemn the far right rather than spreading hurried and prejudiced guesses. A minister can’t behave the same way as the online alias ‘riikka’,” stated Sofia Virta, the chairperson of the Green League.

Purra used the alias ‘riikka’ to make racist and violent comments years ago on an online discussion board.

Virta accused Purra of fomenting xenophobia and urged her to take the threat posed by the far right seriously. “All warning bells should be ringing by now. You can’t let the situation spiral out of control,” she emphasised.

Nasima Razmyar, a deputy chairperson of the Social Democrats, argued on X that it was “only a matter of time” before the hate speech peddled by the far right turned into action.

Also the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo) has repeatedly warned about the possibility of far-right terrorism, reminded Veronika Honkasalo, a deputy chairperson of the Left Alliance.

“There isn’t a bar low enough that the Finns Party couldn’t crawl under it. This is peak distastefulness by Purra and completely chilling,” she wrote.

CORRECTION (19 June 2024): This story stated incorrectly that the suspect tried to stab another 12-year-old, although the age of the second victim had not been disclosed. Police on Friday described the second victim as "another child".

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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