HELSINKI – Finnish police have released a Somali woman arrested on suspicion of financing terrorism but are holding a Somali man as they further probe allegations that he recruited potential terrorists, authorities said Friday.
The pair’s arrests Sept. 7 were the first known terror-linked arrests in the Nordic country. Police said the two are suspected of links to the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaida.
Detective Inspector Kaj Bjorkvist said the 28-year-old woman, who is a student and arrived in Finland in late 2008, has been ordered not to leave the country.
“Our suspicions have not changed, but we no longer felt it necessary to keep her in custody,” Bjorkvist said. “The man asked to be released, but the police objected and he remains in detention.”
Bjorkvist declined to give more details about the suspects.
The National Bureau of Investigation said earlier that the 34-year-old male detainee is suspected of recruiting at least one person abroad to commit an act of terrorism, linked to al-Shabab, “in the direction of Somalia.” He has lived in Finland since 2005, has a residency permit and has held several jobs.
The agency said both suspects, who know each other, allegedly sent small amounts of money to al-Shabab.
Bjorkvist, who heads the bureau’s investigation, said police had conducted another house search in Helsinki this week but were not successful in making contact with another potential male suspect.
He said officers would continue to interrogate the two Somalis and sift through the “somewhat extensive” material they confiscated during earlier searches.
“It’s difficult to know how long it will last. Several other people are involved, some of them overseas, and we have requested legal aid from abroad,” he said.
The Finnish Security Intelligence Service said it began intelligence operations in 2009 that led to the arrests and that they confiscated data and other material in searches at several locations in the Helsinki metropolitan area after the arrests.
Police have given few details about the operation since they took control of the investigation from the intelligence service on Sept. 16, when the arrests were announced. Officials have until Dec. 15 to charge the suspects.