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Bullying a motive for Finnish school shooting

A 12-year-old boy who shot and killed a fellow sixth-grader and severely injured two others at a school in Finland has claimed he was a target of bullying and that this was the motive for his attack, police have said.

The boy brought a relative’s revolver to the Viertola school near Helsinki and shot the three other 12-year-olds and threatened several others yesterday.

He had transferred to the school at the beginning of 2024, investigators said.

The two other pupils remained in hospital.

“We just found out today that there was this bullying behind the tragedy,” lead investigator Detective Chief Inspector Marko Sarkka told Reuters.

The preliminary police probe had confirmed that the boy was a target of bullying, investigators said in a separate statement.

Mr Sarkka declined to elaborate.

Police have not said whether the attacker sought to target any specific individuals.

Finland has seen a rising level of bullying in schools, with 8.6% of pupils who are now around 12 years old saying they had been targeted at least once a week, up from 7.2% in 2019, according to a 2023 study by public health institute THL.

Day of mourning

The national flag of Finland flies at half-mast on the roof of the Government Palace by Senate Square, in Helsinki

Flags are flying at half-mast across the country as it mourns the boy’s death.

Two other Viertola school students, also aged 12, were severely injured in yesterday’s attack, hospital officials and police have said.

After word spread of the shooting yesterday morning, anxious parents waited for hours outside the school as teachers kept classroom doors shut to protect their pupils while police officers searched the premises.

A suspect in the case was eventually apprehended around 4km away while still in possession of a gun.

There were no other suspects, police said.

Police said the permit for the revolver used in the attack belonged to a relative of the suspect

They did not identify the alleged shooter or victims, apart from saying they were all 12-year-old pupils at the school and that the suspect was a boy.

One of the injured children was a girl from Kosovo, the Kosovar foreign ministry said in a post on Facebook.

The permit for the revolver used in the attack belonged to a relative of the suspect, according to police.

It was not immediately clear how the shooter had got hold of the weapon.

“This matter is being investigated by the police as a separate firearms offence,” investigators said in a statement.

The government asked Finns to join in a day of mourning today and ordered that the flags at public buildings be flown at half mast in a symbol of respect for the dead child.

Following deadly school shootings in 2007 and 2008, Finland tightened its gun legislation in 2010 and introduced an aptitude test for all firearms licence applicants.

The minimum age for applicants was also raised to 20 from 18.

There are more than 1.5 million licensed firearms and about 430,000 licence holders in the country of 5.6 million people, where hunting and target shooting are popular.

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