No evidence Dundalk attack linked to international terrorism - Garda

Yosuke Sasaki (24) had been living in Dundalk and working in call centre

Yosuke Sasaki died following a knife attack in Dundalk on Wednesday. Photograph: Facebook

Yosuke Sasaki died following a knife attack in Dundalk on Wednesday. Photograph: Facebook

 

Gardaí have found no evidence that yesterday’s attack by an Egyptian teenager is related to terrorism.

And it has said that in the wake of the attack, which left one man dead and two injured, the terrorism threat level in the Republic remains unchanged.

The Garda moved to quell speculation the incident in Dundalk, Co Louth, was terrorism related amid much public speculation, especially on social media, that the incident was an Islamist extremist attack.

“At this time, we can find no established link to indicate that this tragedy is terrorist related,” the Garda said in a statement.

“However, enquires are continuing internationally as the investigation develops.

“The threat level in this jurisdiction from international terrorism remains unchanged (moderate), where an attack is possible but not likely.

“The level of threat remains under constant review by An Garda Síochána in consultation with the Defence Forces. ”

The statement issued by Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, added it was liaising with other security and law enforcement agencies internationally. It was seeking to gather and share intelligence that might shed light on the suspect’s background and perhaps his motivation.

“The public should be reassured that An Garda Síochána is committed to ensuring that the security of the state and our public areas remains a policing and security service priority,” the Garda said. “As a matter of course, we remind the public to remain vigilant,” it added, also urging anyone with information on yesterday’s violence to come forward.

The Japanese man who was killed in the attack in Dundalk was working at a call centre there.

Yosuke Sasaki (24) died on Wednesday morning after he was stabbed in the back on Avenue Road in Dundalk by an 18-year-old Egyptian national armed with two knives.

Mr Sasaki had been living in the town for the past year and worked in call centre National Pen, manning the phones for service calls for the Japanese market.

It is believed that this was his second time living in Ireland.

He was one of several bilingual Japanese people who worked there and one of about 2,300 Japanese people registered as living in Ireland.

He had travelled from Ebina, in Kanagawa Prefecture, a suburban city an hour’s drive west of Tokyo.

A spokesman for the Japanese Embassy told The Irish Times they had made contact with and were providing support to Mr Sasaki’s family. He requested that the media respect the privacy of the family at this difficult time.

Two Irish men in their early 20s were also attacked on Wednesday - a 22-year-old was stabbed on Coes Road shortly before 9.30am while a 23-year-old man was attacked a few minutes later with a pole at Seatown Place. Both men sustained non life-threatening injuries in the attack.

Interview

Gardaí have yet to find any information that the series of attacks were linked to a terrorist organisation.

Attempts to interview the 18-year-old suspect and an examination of the abandoned house he was thought to be living in in recent days have so far yielded no indication that he was working with others or under the instructions of an organised group, garda sources say.

Investigators are not searching for anymore suspects but are appealing for anyone in Dundalk to come forward about any interactions they may have had with the suspect since he arrived in Ireland.

Gardaí are concerned about the man’s mental health and he has been visited at least twice by doctors in Dundalk Garda Station since his arrest at 10am on Wednesday.

There have also been efforts to track down members of his family who garda believe may be living in England. It is understood the Egyptian man entered Ireland via Northern Ireland having spent time in the UK where he had sought asylum.

It is understood the man has calmed down somewhat after being in a highly agitated state yesterday. And he has given some limited information about his background.

Gardaí from the Computer Crimes Investigation are examining two mobile phones belonging to the man for clues about his motives and how he came into the country.

Abandoned house

Examinations are also continuing of an abandoned house he was thought to be squatting in prior to the attacks. The house is located about 200 metres from where the first victim was stabbed to death on Avenue Road.

The man stabbed on Coes Road is understood to be Cian Murphy, a sales assistant in a local tile store, National Tile Ltd.

A manager at the store confirmed Mr Murphy was one of the individuals injured in the attacks and described him as a “local lad”.

He said he spoke briefly by telephone to Mr Murphy after the attack while he was in the hospital and described his condition as “okay”. He said the student had told him “he’ll be fine”.

The second man hospitalised after the attack at Seatown, Dundalk, was Dylan Grehan, a 23-year-old from Faughart a few miles from Dundalk. He sought assistance in a local pharmacy after he was hit on the head with what appeared to be a large stick or iron bar.

Meanwhile, gardaí who disarmed the attacker have been praised for their “heroic” work. John McGahon, the chairman of Dundalk Municipal District, said, “If it was not for the heroic actions of An Garda Síochána who managed, while unarmed, to disarm a crazed knifeman, there could have been a much higher death toll.”

National security co-ordinator

Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said on Thursday morning that he supported calls for a national security co-ordinator and underlined the challenges of protecting the State against “random acts of violence”.

Responding to queries on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the status of the Egyptian man believed to be responsible for the attacks in Dundalk, Mr O’Callaghan questioned how the man had arrived in Ireland and where he had come from.

“If he was previously in the UK and refused asylum there then he couldn’t apply here. There are a lot of questions and the public is entitled to answers.”

Mr O’Callaghan added that the people injured in Wednesday’s attack had been terrorised “whether there was a political or religious agenda by the suspect”.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan expressed sympathy with those affected by the attacks in Dundalk.

“There has, understandably, been speculation and concern about the motivation for this attack. I welcome An Garda Síochána’s statement in this regard and would caution against drawing judgments until the gardaí can establish the facts in the course of their investigation,” he said.

“The gardaí are carrying out a full and urgent investigation into these attacks, and that must be allowed to take its course. This is a live criminal investigation and nothing should be said that would impinge on that investigation. Anyone who has any concerns about crime or suspicious behaviour should contact the gardaí immediately,” he added.

Swift action

Speaking in Budapest the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed condolences to the family of the Japanese man killed in the attack. “I understand the man came to work in Ireland just over a year ago, and it must be a very difficult time for his family to hear the news that a person who came to live in a peaceful country was killed in what may very well turn out to be a random attack,” he said.

“I also want to send my best wishes to the people who were injured,” he added.

He congratulated gardaí for “acting so swiftly and dealing with the attack within 45 minutes, and I’m sure preventing further loss of life and injury”.

Mr Varadkar said gardaí had not found evidence of a terrorism link but all lines of inquiry remain open “and they are still trying to find out all the details of how this person became present in Ireland and what interaction he had with the immigration services. It certainly isn’t the case that someone who applies for asylum in Ireland is automatically detained but we do need to find out what happened and what might be done better.”

A postmortem on Mr Sasaki’s body is taking place at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

The killing has received widespread coverage in Japan, where the focus has been heavily on the ‘terror’ aspect of the murder.

Posting on Facebook, the Japan Ireland Social Group said news of the death was very tragic.

“We think of this as very sad and shocking news for the family... Do not let this affect your thoughts and feelings for Ireland.”