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Firemen gather outside of the Kauhajoki vocational high school in Kauhajoki, southwestern Finland, on Sept 23 2008.
Firemen gather outside of the Kauhajoki vocational high school in Kauhajoki, southwestern Finland, on Sept 23 2008.
Firemen gather outside of the Kauhajoki vocational high school in Kauhajoki, southwestern Finland, on Sept 23 2008.

School gunman dies after killing 10

A gunman dies after firing on students at a school in Finland, killing 10 people before shooting himself.

KAUHAJOKI, FINLAND // A masked gunman whose violent YouTube postings prompted police to bring him in for questioning yesterday opened fire at his trade school in western Finland today, killing 10 people before shooting himself in the head. Witnesses said panic broke out as the gunman dressed in black entered the school in Kauhajoki, about 290km North-west of Helsinki, and began firing in a classroom where students were taking an exam. The shootings began just before 11am local time, as about 150 students were at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality. "I heard several dozen rounds of shots, in other words it was an automatic pistol," school janitor Jukka Forsberg told Finnish broadcaster YLE. "I saw some female students who were wailing and moaning and one managed to escape out the back door." Yesterday, police questioned the gunman about YouTube postings in which he is seen firing a handgun, said the interior minister, Anne Holmlund. He was released because there was no legal reason to hold him, she said. It was Finland's second school massacre in less than a year and the two attacks had eerie similarities. Both gunman posted violent clips on YouTube prior to the massacres, both were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado, both attacked their own school and both died after shooting themselves in the head. Kauhajoki Mayor Antti Rantakokko said nine victims were killed at first. The gunman was taken to a hospital in Tampere, about two hours away, along with a female victim he had shot in the head. Hospital officials said that both had died. Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat said police identified the gunman as Matti Juhani Saari, a 22-year-old student. "We have experienced a tragic day," said the prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, as he expressed condolences to the families of the victims and declared tomorrow a day of mourning. Finnish authorities did not confirm exactly what YouTube clips were linked to the shooter. But in one YouTube clip, a young man wearing a leather jacket fires several shots in rapid succession with a handgun at what appears to be a shooting range. The posting was made five days before the shooting and the location was given as Kauhajoki - the same town as today's shooting. The posting included a message saying: "Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war." The person who posted the clip identified himself as a 22-year-old with the name "Mr Saari." He also posted three other clips of himself firing a handgun in the past three weeks. Clips from the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado were listed among his favourite videos. Last November, another gunman killed eight people and himself at a school in southern Finland, an attack that triggered a fierce debate about gun laws in this Nordic nation with deep-rooted hunting traditions in the sub-Arctic wilderness. Pekka-Eric Auvinen, described by police as a bullied 18-year-old outcast, opened fire at his high school in southern Finland on Nov 7, killing six students, a school nurse and the principal before ending his own life. Finnish investigators said Mr Auvinen left a suicide note for his family and foreshadowed his attack in YouTube postings. With 1.6 million firearms in private hands, Finland is an anomaly in Europe, lagging behind only the United States and Yemen in civilian gun ownership, studies show. After Mr Auvinen's rampage, the government said it would raise the minimum age for buying guns from 15 to 18, but insisted there was no need for sweeping changes to Finland's gun laws. * AP

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