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Supo: Far-right terror threat increasing in Finland

Finland's intelligence service also noted that "replacement theory" has become a topic of conversation in far-right circles.

Kuvassa on suojelupoliisin päämaja Helsingin Punavuoressa osoitteessa Ratakatu 12 syyskuussa 2020.
The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service Supo published its 202 Yearbook report on Tuesday. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

The biggest threat of a terrorist attack in Finland is currently posed by individuals or small groups that support either far-right or Islamic fundamentalist ideology, according to the 2020 Yearbook report (external link) published by the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service Supo on Tuesday.

The threat has remained at level 2 (elevated) on the four-point scale, the same as last year, but the agency added that the activities of far-right groups in particular are becoming increasingly worrying.

Finland has remained at terror threat level 2 since the terrorist attack in Turku in August 2017.

Far-right threat increasing

Supo previously reported in October last year that the danger posed by far-right extremism had intensified in Finland, and it has continued to identify far-right operators with the capacity and motivation to carry out a terrorist attack.

These groups grew in number during the mid-2010s, but their expansion has levelled off in recent years.

"The far-right counter-terrorism targets identified by Supo are typically linked to the extreme right-wing international online environment," Supo Director Antti Pelttari wrote in the press release, adding that evidence of concrete preparations for an attack have also emerged.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Supo's Head of Analysis Pekka Hiltunen explained that an example of this would be acquiring equipment suitable for an attack.

Police suspected an anti-immigration, far-right group called Nationalist Alliance (Kansallismielisten liittouma in Finnish) of preparing to commit a violent crime last year, but authorities decided not to pursue the case due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

The plans came to light during a police investigation into the attempted murder of Finns Party aide Pekka Kataja last year, where far-right involvement was also suspected.

Supo further noted that the 'Great Replacement' theory, which claims that the white European population is being demographically and culturally replaced with non-European people through mass migration, has been increasingly cited in far-right circles.

The term has also been used in Finland by a number of MPs, including Finns Party Jussi Halla-aho and the party’s vice-chair Riikka Purra.

Purra justified the use of the term in relation to discussions around demographic change during an interview with Image magazine (external link in Finnish) in January, while Halla-aho spoke about the theory during an interview in English on Yle News' All Points North podcast.

You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed. The question in relation to the great replacement theory starts at 20:58.

Article continues after audio.

Supo director Pelttari did not wish to comment on the use of the term by politicians during the Tuesday morning press conference.

Radical Islamist terrorism 'remains a threat'

The most significant terrorist threat on a global scale is posed by radical Islamists, Supo said. The weakened ISIL terrorist organisation in the Middle East is still actively producing propaganda in many languages and agilely exploiting various online platforms from Tiktok to the chat service Jodel.

The threat of Islamist terrorism to Finland is primarily posed by individuals who may be influenced or become radicalised by such propaganda, the agency added.

"Several people returned to Finland from the Syrian conflict zone in 2020. Most of these returnees are likely to continue operating in radical Islamist networks, for example by recruiting supporters and disseminating extremist ideology," the report stated.

Supo added that while those returning from conflict areas often become disillusioned with the ideology, most are likely to continue to operate in radical Islamist networks, posing an ongoing threat to national security.

The report also noted the role played by domestic radicalisation, adding that there are families in Finland where the third generation has become influenced by extremist ideology. In such families, children may grow from an early age in a radicalised environment that is difficult to break away from, the report pointed out.

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