The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) has raised its terror threat level to the second lowest level of elevated.
Supo on Wednesday estimated that the threat of a terrorist attack is higher than ever before in Finland due to the country’s increased visibility in jihadist propaganda and the ever-closer ties of counter-terrorism persons of interest to terrorist activities.
The threat, it reminded, continues to be posed primarily by lone-wolf terrorists and small terrorist groups influenced by radical propaganda or larger terrorist organisations.
Supo said it has identified approximately 350 individuals as counter-terrorism persons of interest, a number that represents an increase of roughly 80 per cent since 2012 and that is projected to continue growing as a consequence of radicalisation and the emergence and detection of new terrorist networks.
Such persons of interest are believed to have more direct and serious links to terrorist activities and include a growing number of people who have either participated or expressed a willingness to participate in armed conflicts, or participated in terrorist training.
Supo’s updated threat assessment indicates that some of the people who have left Finland to participate in armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria have risen to influential positions in, especially, the so-called Islamic State.
Supo also revealed that is has become aware of more serious terrorism-related plans and projects in Finland.
Finland’s position has changed substantially, Pekka Hiltunen, a special researcher at Supo, summarised in a press conference according to Helsingin Sanomat.
The country, he pointed out, was previously regarded as neutral and remained relatively unknown among terrorist organisations. Today, however, it is portrayed in jihadist propaganda, which is also disseminated in Finnish, as a country that is hostile towards the so-called Islamic State – a fact that has increased the likelihood of an attack in Finland.
Another factor contributing to the heightened threat level is the fact that terrorist organisations have widened the range of their possible targets. “Efforts are made to direct attacks against all states and groups that are regarded as hostile. This increases the threat of attacks in Finland,” writes Supo.
The new four-tier terrorist threat scale was adopted to reflect the continuing changes in the operating environment of counter-terrorism, told Antti Pelttari, the director of Supo. The new scale, which measures the threat of a terrorist attack on a scale ranging from low to severe, will according to him enable Supo to inform people of the current threat level more clearly than before.
“Finland remains one of the safest countries in the world. We’re doing everything we can to make sure the situation stays unchanged,” he reminded on Wednesday.
Supo issued its previous terrorist threat assessment in November, 2015. It at the time estimated that the threat of an isolated violent attack had increased but that the threat of an organised attack by a terrorist organisation remained low.
The Police of Finland on Wednesday announced that it will step up its preparedness and increase its presence in public places and events due to the new terror threat assessment.
The police are well-prepared also in light of the new assessment and wil continue their efforts to prevent terrorist attacks in close co-operation with Supo, as well as the Border Guard and Finnish Customs, assures Timo Kilpeläinen, a superintendent at the National Police Board.
“The police will step up their efforts to maintain the situational picture, exchange information and gather criminal intelligence. Pre-trial investigations are launched to criminal plans we are and become aware of,” he says in a press release.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Linda Manner – Lehtikuva