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Finnish media report threats sent to students

Bomb threats and other threatening messages have been sent to students and schools across Finland in the wake of a shooting rampage that left a total of nine dead, Finnish media reported.
People lay candles near the Kauhajoki vocational high school in western Finland on Wednesday.Vesa Moilanen / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Several bomb threats and other threatening messages have been sent to students and schools across Finland in the wake of a shooting rampage that left a total of nine dead, Finnish media reported on Thursday.

Police said they were investigating threatening phone messages in the Kauhajoki region, where the attack occurred, which have caused panic among the students there. They gave no details of the contents of the messages.

Police spokesman Urpo Lintula says "the text messages are threatening in nature and are causing fear and hysteria among young people, and we must stop them."

Earlier, Finland's police chief warned the country could face more copycat school shootings as investigators probed a growing list of eerie similarities between two deadly rampages in less than a year.

Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero told Finnish MTV3 that police would increase their monitoring of YouTube and other Internet sites where the gunmen in both shootings posted clips foreshadowing the attacks.

On Tuesday, 22-year-old Matti Saari killed 10 people before shooting himself in a fiery massacre at his vocational college in western Finland. In November, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen fatally shot eight people and himself at his school in southern Finland.

Asked whether he thought the attacks would inspire more school shootings, Paatero said "I badly fear it's possible."

Swedish arrest
In neighboring Sweden, police questioned and then released a 16-year-old boy and confiscated 12 firearms after receiving a tip about a video clip on YouTube in which he poses with weapons.

The boy was arrested in Koping, central Sweden, late Wednesday for alleged illegal weapons possession and for "creating danger to others."

He was released Thursday because "the prosecutor does not think he poses an immediate threat," police spokesman Borje Stromberg said. It was not immediately clear whether the teen would face charges.

Stromberg said police made three raids in Koping after seeing a clip the boy had posted on YouTube, where he shows weapons and threatens to use them.

He said they found 12 firearms, including automatic weapons, hunting rifles and guns, and are now investigating who owns the weapons and whether they are licensed.

Stromberg said the boy had "not expressed a threat toward any specific person or place."

Actions 'so similar'
In Finland, investigators said Auvinen and Saari likely bought their guns at the same place and could even have been in contact with each other.

"Their actions seems so similar that I would consider it a miracle if we did not find some connecting link," Jari Neulaniemi was quoted as telling the Finnish news agency STT.

Both gunmen posted violent clips on YouTube before the shootings, both were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado, both attacked their own schools and both died after shooting themselves in the head.

The government pledged to tighten Finland's gun laws and keep mentally unstable people from obtaining firearms after Saari's rampage at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality, 180 miles northwest of Helsinki.

Deeply held hunting traditions
Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said the government was working on a proposal to restrict gun laws by giving police greater powers to examine gun applicants' health records. Saari acquired a permit for his weapon in August, police said.

Finland has deeply held hunting traditions and ranks — along with the United States — among the top five nations when it comes to civilian gun ownership. After the previous massacre, the government had pledged to raise the age for buying a gun from 15 to 18 but never did so.

The government also called for an investigation into police handling of the case. After an anonymous tip, police had questioned Saari on Monday about YouTube clips that showed him firing a handgun. But police said they found no reason to hold him.

Police were searching for a person who appeared to have filmed some of Saari's YouTube clips but said there was no indication Saari had an accomplice.

Those slain by Saari include eight female students, one male teacher and one male student. A 21-year-old woman that Saari shot in the head is still hospitalized after having two operations.

Neulaniemi said there was no indication that Saari had singled out women, but women bore the brunt of the attack because most of the trade college's students were women.

Police said Saari had left a message saying he had planned an attack for six years and wanted to kill as many people as possible.