Police: Gunman kills 4 people in rampage at shopping mall in Finland

By Jari Tanner, AP
Thursday, December 31, 2009

Police: 4 people shot dead in Finnish mall

HELSINKI — A gunman clad in black went on a shooting rampage Thursday at a suburban shopping mall near the Finnish capital of Helsinki, killing four people, police and witnesses said.

One woman and three men were shot dead at the Sello shopping mall in Espoo, police spokesman Jurki Karlio told The Associated Press. Hundreds of people were at the mall for New Year’s Eve and witnesses said they erupted in panic.

The shooter was heavily armed and still on the loose hours after the 10:20 a.m.(0820 GMT) shooting, police told the STT news agency. Trains to the area were halted and police helicopters whirled overhead as police stepped up the manhunt.

The gunman, identified by police as 43-year-old Ibrahim Shkupolli, reportedly killed his ex-wife in a nearby apartment before heading to the mall, state broadcaster YLE reported.

The STT agency reported that the gunman’s ex-wife worked at the shopping mall and that there was a restraining order against Shkupolli. YLE reported the gunman was born in 1966 and was previously known to police.

Hundreds of mall workers were evacuated to a nearby library and firehouse.

One witness told YLE that a gunman dressed in black began randomly shooting at people on the second floor of the Sello mall, one of the Nordic region’s largest. Another witness told Finnish radio that chaos ensued as the shooting began.

“There were loads of people who were crying, and many vendors who were completely panicked,” the unnamed witness said.

Another female witness told YLE radio news she saw the suspect carrying a long-barrelled pistol and rushing past the cashier line at Sello’s Prisma supermarket where the slayings took place.

Finland, a nation of 5.3 million, has 1.6 million firearms in private hands, a long tradition of hunting and ranks among the top five nations in the world in civilian gun ownership.

Politicians, social workers and religious leaders have all urged tighter gun laws, more vigilance of Internet sites, and more social bonding in the small Nordic nation, which is known for its high suicide rates, heavy drinking and domestic violence.

Previous shootings in Finland have been linked to schools. In September 2008, a lone gunman killed nine fellow students and a teacher at a vocational college before shooting himself in the western town of Kauhajoki. In November 2007, an 18-year-old student fatally shot eight people and himself at a high school in southern Finland.

Both young men in those attacks fired guns in YouTube clips posted before the shootings, shot themselves in the head and used .22-caliber handguns bought from the same store.

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