Arrests Come Amid Growing Worries About Role of Foreign Fighters in Syria
Oct. 9, 2014 9:59 a.m.
HELSINKIâ€”Police in Finland said on Thursday they want to keep in detention three Finnish nationals whom they suspect of murder as members of a foreign armed, terrorist organization, the first arrests of their kind in the Nordic country.
Finlandâ€™s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is asking for the three men to be remanded in custody pending their investigation of â€œmurder for terrorist purposes,â€ according to a news release issued by the Helsinki District Court on Thursday.
â€œWe suspect that these persons have participated in activities of armed groups abroad,â€ said Mika Ihaksinen, the NBIâ€™s lead investigator on the case.
The arrests in Helsinki come amid growing concern in Western capitals about their countriesâ€™ nationals joining fighters in Syria and then returning to Europe to launch terrorist plots.
British police arrested four individuals in London on Tuesday with assistance from armed officers as part of investigations into Islamist extremism in what the cityâ€™s top cop described as a â€œserious case.â€ In Australia, police last month carried out raids in two major cities, including Sydney, in a strike aimed at disrupting what they said were plans by local supporters of Islamic State, the terrorist group under attack from the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, to behead members of the public.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have said the volume of foreign fighters in Syria raises the stakes for all concerned, as does the ease with which many of those fighters can slip across the border into Turkey and be at Europeâ€™s doorstep.
Finnish law doesnâ€™t prohibit Finnish nationals from engaging in an armed conflict abroad, said Mr. Ihaksinen.
However, the law prohibits Finns from taking up arms on behalf of a group which has been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations or the European Union, Mr. Ihaksinen said.
Islamic State was among groups associated with al Qaeda to be added to the U.N.â€™s black list in May last year.
Mr. Ihaksinen declined to disclose any further information or to reveal where the alleged murders might have occurred.
What is known is that the three men were originally detained on Tuesday on information provided by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service.
Last summer FSIS said that some 40 Finns or foreigners residing in Finland have traveled to Syria during the countryâ€™s internal conflict and about 20 of them have been directly involved with groups that have contributed to the violence in Syria.
The District Courtâ€™s news release shows that the three men, who all were born in the 1980s, have names that combine Finnish and Arabic elements.
In addition to the potential murder charge, one of the men is suspected of providing training in terrorism, and one is suspected of recruitment to terrorism.
Helsinki District Court will hold a hearing on the policeâ€™s request on Friday. The police are asking that the hearing be sealed.