Man killed in car bomb in Helsinki


FINLAND: A car bomb exploded in downtown Helsinki early yesterday killing the Finnish driver and injuring the driver of another car, in what police said was probably a gangland attack linked to drugs or money.

The explosion ripped the Opel Kadett apart as it approached a set of traffic lights just before 7 a.m. The injured man, in his thirties, was in stable condition at a Helsinki hospital.

Helsinki police said they did not believe the target was a synagogue 200 metres away, but they said they could not rule it out.

"At the moment I don't have any kind of reason or any other hints to suspect there are connections to any religious movement, terrorism or mafia business," Det Chief Insp Olli Toyras, who is heading the investigation, said. "The bomb was probably related to criminal activity. It may be a revenge case."

Glass and debris were scattered across the downtown intersection, with windows of two floors of a nearby hotel blown out.

The blast immediately killed the Finnish driver, who was also in his thirties. Police declined to give details about him, other than to say he was already known to them.

Mr Gideon Bolotowsky, president of Helsinki's small Jewish community, said he had no information to indicate the blast was an attack on the synagogue, which had received a bomb threat earlier this year.

"They've said it's an execution," he said, referring to news reports. "It was the proximity [to the synagogue] that set the imagination of a lot of people moving."

The synagogue, which has been closed for the summer holidays since Monday, is not located on the same street where the blast occurred.

A Turkish tourist who was in a city hotel said: "I was half awake when I heard the explosion. I was scared. We were told it was a car and someone dead was lying near it," Mr Figan Soylenezglu said.

Some 100 guests, many of them German tourists, were staying at the hotel. Some were having breakfast when the car blew up.

"It was a big explosion, yes. You could hear the room shake. I thought a part of the building had gone down," a German tourist at the Helka hotel told Finnish radio.

Chief Insp Toyras said the car was packed with explosives and that the police were investigating the incident as a possible murder.

There are few cases of public violence in Finland, which is largely crime-free compared to most of its EU partners.

- (Reuters)