Gardaí are liaising with Egyptian and UK authorities in an attempt to establish if a series of attacks in Dundalk on Wednesday, which left one person dead, were motivated by terrorism.
Shortly before 9am on Wednesday, a 24 year old Japanese male was stabbed and killed on Avenue Road in the south of town prompting a massive man-hunt involving detectives and uniformed members.
Over the next 45 minutes two more men were attacked and injured before the suspect was confronted and arrested.
The suspect, an 18 year old Egyptian national, is believed to have recently entered Ireland via Northern Ireland, having previously spent time in Britain.
On Wednesday night, the young man was being interviewed by detectives but was largely refusing to cooperate. It is understood he received medical treatment after his arrest and remained in a highly agitated state throughout the day.
On Wednesday afternoon he could be heard shouting inside the garda station.
Investigators stress they do not have a motive for the attacks but say that terrorism is one line of inquiry. Gardaí are also assessing if the man is suffering from mental health issues.
“A terror attack is certainly a line of inquiry we are looking at. We will endeavor to establish the suspect's background including who they are, where they have come from and why are they here. Those are very, very important questions we're trying to ask and answer,” said Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan.
“There will be an international dimension obviously. We will be speaking to the Egyptian authorities.”
He said the attacks appeared to be “random and unprovoked” and there is nothing to indicate the victims knew their attacker or each other.
Gardaí believe he acted on his own but are eager to speak to anyone he may have encountered during his time in Dundalk.
“We are very interested to know exactly how this suspect came into the jurisdiction, how long they were here and who they were associating with. We certainly are appealing to people who knew the suspect from the time he was in the jurisdiction,” Chief Supt Mangan said.
Investigators say the suspect was previously stopped by a garda in Dundalk on January 1st and asked about his status in the country. When he failed to produce the proper papers he was instructed to go to Dublin to apply for asylum. It is not known if he went to Dublin before today's attacks.
Chief Supt Mangan said he believes there was some attempt by the suspect to begin the asylum process.
The dead man is a 24 year old Japanese man who was living and working in Dundalk for the past year. Gardaí were on Wednesday night attempting to notify his family in Japan.
A spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Dublin confirmed on Wednesday night it had made contact with the dead man’s family in Japan and was ready to provide assistance.
Half an hour after he was stabbed gardaí arrived at the scene of another attack on Coes Road, about 20 minutes walk from Avenue Road, in which a male victim suffered minor stab injuries. Ten minutes later there was another report of a male being attacked with a fence post.
Shortly afterwards a garda spotted the suspect “acting erratically” and swinging a fence post around. The garda waited for armed backup and the man was arrested shortly before 10am.
The suspect is currently being held in Dundalk Garda Station on suspicion of murder. He can be questioned for 24 hours excluding rest periods.
Garda sources expressed concern that they know so little about the suspect. Investigators, including the Computer Crime Unit, are attempting to piece together the man's background but are struggling to establish exactly what brought him to Dundalk.
Scenes are being preserved at Avenue Road, Inner Relief Road and Seatown to allow for forensic examinations by gardaí, a spokesman for the force said.
Seatown is beside the Marshes Shopping Centre while the Inner Relief Road is beside Dundalk IT. Gardaí earlier deployed sniffer dogs in the areas to help gather evidence.
Fianna Fáil Justice Spokesperson Jim O'Callaghan called on the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to clarify the man's status in the country.
“It's worrying that, at this time, the authorities are unable to determine how exactly the perpetrator of this vicious attack entered the State,” he said.
A spokesman for Minister for Justice would not comment on what was described as an ongoing operation by An Garda Síochána.