Gunman Kills 5, Then Self, in Finland

By: Marius Turula, Jari Tanner, & Nebi Qena - AP Writers
By: Marius Turula, Jari Tanner, & Nebi Qena - AP Writers

ESPOO, Finland (AP) - A lone gunman dressed in black killed five
people, including four in a crowded shopping mall, before returning
home and taking his own life on Thursday. It was the third such
massacre in Finland in about two years, and once again raised
questions about gun control in a Nordic country where hunting is
popular.

Police identified the killer as 43-year-old Ibrahim Shkupolli,
an ethnic Albanian immigrant from Kosovo who had been living for
several years in Finland, and the national tragedy cast a pall over
the nation's New Year's Eve celebrations.

Shkupolli killed his ex-girlfriend, a Finnish woman, at her
home, and four employees of the Prisma grocery store at the Sello
shopping mall in Espoo, six miles (10 kilometers) west of Helsinki,
the capital.

It was unclear whom he shot first.

The former girlfriend, who was 42, had also worked at the same
Prisma store, and police superintendent Jukka Kaski said she had a
restraining order imposed on Shkupolli.

The Finnish newspaper, Aamulehti, wrote that Shkupolli allegedly
stalked the woman for years and that she had complained to police
about how he used to show up at the Prisma grocery store to watch
her.

National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero told the Aamulehti
daily that it was unlikely the gunman had targeted specific Prisma
employees but that police didn't know for sure.

After killing the four mall workers, the gunman fled the area
and was at large for several hours. Police eventually found his
body at his Espoo home, and Kaski said the cause of death was
suicide.

Relatives in the Kosovo town of Mitrovica, where Ibrahim
Shkupolli was born, expressed shock and grief at the news.

"Each time he came from Finland he came here," said cousin
Islam Shkupolli, his eyes red from crying. "I am very surprised by
what has happened. I knew him to be a very kind man," he said.

Relatives said Shkupolli had last visited in Kosovo in November.

"I can't say a bad word about him, and I know no one else
can," said sister-in-law Nexhmije while standing on the porch of
her home in Mitrovica, Kosovo. "There are no festivities for us
tonight."

Back in Espoo - Finland's second largest city and known as the
home of Nokia, the world's largest manufacturer of cell phones -
the day started in chaos. Witnesses said panic erupted at the mall
when the shots rang out.

"I heard two shots," eyewitness Mare Elson told state
broadcaster YLE. "First I thought somebody had shot firecrackers
inside the mall. But then I saw a man dressed in black running
beside me with a gun in his hand."

Teemu Oksanen, a police constable, told APTN that police
received information about the shooting just after 10 a.m. local
time. "The police took action and found four victims in the
shopping mall - two in the first floor, two in the second floor,"
he said.

Hundreds of mall workers and shoppers were then evacuated to a
nearby library and firehouse. Local train connections to the mall
were halted, and helicopters whirled overhead as police launched a
manhunt for the heavily armed killer.

The gunman reportedly worked at a supplier company called Inex
Partners, part of Finland's leading retailer S-Group that owns the
Prisma supermarket chain. Amos Soivio, a colleague and neighbor,

The gunman reportedly worked at a company called Inex, part of
the S-Kedjan group that supplies the Prisma grocery chain. Amos
Soivio, a colleague and neighbor, said Shkopulli was a "normal man
who acted normally."

"Today I heard that he'd been on sick leave a lot lately,"
Soivio told APTN.

The Finnish news agency STT reported that Shkupolli was arrested
for carrying an unlicensed handgun in 2003.

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

In September 2008, a lone gunman killed nine fellow students and
a teacher at a vocational college before shooting himself to death
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.

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

The Interior Ministry has unveiled proposals - including raising
the minimal age limit for handgun ownership from 15 to 20 - but so
far they have been mired in fierce legislative debate.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Matti
Vanhanen sent their condolences to the victims' relatives. In a
brief message, Vanhanen noted the large number handguns in Finland
and vowed that the slayings would be thoroughly investigated "with
particular focus on the unlicensed gun and how the shooter obtained
it."

The deaths prompted the city of Espoo to cancel a New Year's Eve
concert.


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