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Gunman kills 10 in Finnish school

Published: 6:19AM Wednesday September 24, 2008 Source: Reuters

A student gunman shot and killed 10 people at a vocational school in western Finland before turning the gun on himself, in the country's second such attack in less than a year.
   
The gunman, 22-year old student Matti Saari, died later of a head wound in Tampere University Hospital, the hospital's medical director said.
   
In an echo of last year's deadly attack at Finland's Jokela high school, Saari posted menacing comments and videos of himself wielding a gun on the Internet in the run-up to his shooting rampage, prompting police to question him.
   
"A cold-blooded shooter entered the building with an automatic pistol and started cutting down students," said Jukka Forsberg, a maintenance man at the school in the town of Kauhajoki where the shooting occurred.
   
"He also shot towards me, did not say anything and once the bullets started to whizz by I started running for my life."
   
Many of the students at the post-secondary school, which teaches catering and tourism studies, are around 20 years old.
   
Police interviewed Saari regarding the shooting video a day before the massacre, Interior Minister Anne Holmlund told a news conference. They were alerted to footage posted on the Web showing him firing a handgun at a shooting range.
   
"Police action will be examined in more detail later. The gunman had a temporary permit for a .22 calibre pistol, and he had received it in August 2008. It was his first gun," she said.
   
Gun ownership in Finland is among the highest in the world, but crime rates in general are low.
   
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said Finland should consider banning private handguns altogether, saying a new stricter European-wide gun law was not enough.
   
"It is not enough to talk about age limits or interviews ... after two such tragic incidents, we have to discuss whether private people can be allowed to have handguns," Vanhanen said. 
   
Tragic day
   
The Internet link revived memories of last year's deadly attack at Jokela high school, where student Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed six fellow students, the school nurse and the principal after broadcasting his intent in a YouTube video.
   
Auvinen shot himself and died later of his injuries.
   
"We have experienced a tragic day," Vanhanen said in Helsinki after the Kauhajoki attack.
   
The Finnish government said grief counsellors were on site and giving support to students, teachers and relatives.
   
"This is very very depressing. We have only had some time since the Jokela case last November," said rescue coordinator Kari Saarinen.
   
A search of YouTube and the wider Internet yielded a number of videos filmed by a user called "Mr. Saari", who said he was 22 years old and lived in Kauhajoki. The videos show a man clad in black or dark colours, firing a handgun at a shooting range.
   
The YouTube user's profile included the words: "And suddenly there was war and the mothers they screamed. For revenge and reprisals for another war."
   
It adds: "Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war. War. This is war!"
   
In one video, entitled "Goodbye", the dark-clad man empties his gun into an off-screen target, walks to the camera and says "goodbye".

But according to a former classmate, the travel and restaurant trade student bore no resemblance to the loner profile of many mass murderers.
   
"He was happy, a social guy - there was nothing exceptional - he got along with people well and he was not lonely. He had friends" and was easy to talk to, said Susanna Keronen, trying to fathom what might have led him to take such drastic action.
   
In his profile on the irc-gallery social networking site, Saari, who lived alone with his cat, billed himself as a committed misanthrope. Other entries touted war and revenge.
   
Saari's postings were strikingly similar to those of Jokela high school student Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who shot dead six fellow students, the principal and the school nurse last November after posting a video telegraphing his plans.
   
A raft of copy-cat videos after the Jokela shooting led to closer monitoring of sites by police.
   
Saari and Auvinen, who shared a love of the industrial rock band KMFDM, both spent their last hours on the Internet.
   
Just like Auvinen, Saari logged on to the Internet site irc-gallery on Wednesday morning for the last time before leaving for school and opening fire on his classmates.
   
Saari, who said he was an atheist, said on myspace.com he was interested in meeting friends and networking. But on other sites, he mulled the final solution to the problems of mankind and aired darker thoughts.
   
On various sites, the horror movie fan listed computers, guns, sex, beer and drums among his hobbies, and under favourite musicians named only heavy metal bands.
   
He posted a picture of his gun - a Walther P22 Target pistol - on the Internet, and mentioned it on a dating site.
   
Saari wrote that he was looking for a woman but did not want children. 
   
Local authorities said students and staff had been evacuated from the school and that an earlier fire had been extinguished.
   
The school, which calls itself the "Kauhajoki School of Hospitality", had 150 students and 40 teachers as of 2005, according to the official website.
   
Finland ranks third after the United States and Yemen in gun ownership rates, according to a study last year by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.