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Supo: Violent hate crimes, refugee links to violence affecting national security

Finland’s security intelligence police Supo has warned of an increased terror threat in the country. Speaking during a press conference Tuesday, Supo chief Antti Pelttari said that the arrival of asylum seekers had increased the threat of violent hate crimes due to the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in Finland. Supo also speculated that some asylum seekers with links to violent groups may increase the country’s terror threat level. However he said that the risk of isolated attacks remains small.

Suojelupoliisin päällikkö Antti Pelttari Supon tiedotustilaisuudessa Helsingissä.
Suojelupoliisin päällikkö Antti Pelttari Supon tiedotustilaisuudessa Helsingissä tiistaina. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Security police chief Antti Pelttari said that the terrorism threat facing Finland has increased with the arrival of individual asylum seekers with connections to violent groups. 

On Tuesday security police Supo published two new national security assessments. In one of the reports, the organization reviewed the impact of the number of asylum seekers on security in Finland, while the second was a terrorism threat assessment. Supo said that the terrorism threat had both increased and diversified in Finland compared to 2014.

"The abrupt change in the asylum situation in Finland has brought a significant threat to Finnish security," Pelttari told reporters.

Although Supo’s national security assessment concluded that the country still faces a low terror threat, the agency said that it’s not ruling out the possibility of isolated attacks. The last such review in 2014 also put the terror risk at a low level.

The intelligence agency said that the significant growth in the number of asylum seekers entering the country had increased the threat of violent hate crimes, largely due to the growth in anti-immigrant sentiment.

Finnish extreme groups spreading misinformation about arrivals

"The asylum seeker situation could add to violence among the new arrivals. In addition the risk of anti-asylum seeker attacks has grown," Pelttari continued.

In its review of the impact of the asylum situation on national security, Supo noted that the neo Nazi Finnish Resistance Movement (Suomen Vastarintaliike) had launched a campaign against asylum seekers and the establishment of new reception centres. According to Supo the group had been spreading one-sided and distorted information about asylum seekers.

Supo said that asylum seeker arrivals had also fueled activity by other protest movements and that certain individuals using the symbols of extreme right groups – some of these persons were previously known to the intelligence agency, but others were new faces, Supo added.

The security police also warned that the increase in asylum seeker arrivals would spur a rise in the number of people interested in extreme Islamist activity, adding that the number of people targeted by anti-terrorism efforts had grown steadily. It added that terrorism-related support and recruitment activities might increase.

Suspects under scrutiny

Pelttari told journalists that people in Finland had no reason to alter their daily routines and could continue to walk the streets freely. he said that Supo was currently tracking the activities of some 300 individuals, and was particularly interested in their activities at asylum reception centres.

"We have information that some of the arrivals may include people who’ve been involved in fighting," he added.

The intelligence agency said that a number of fighters had returned to Finland from Syria and Iraq. It claimed that many had ties to extreme Islamist groups and battle forces. Among the suspects Supo is monitoring are Finnish nationals who have participated in conflicts abroad.

Interior Minister: Attacks by Finns most concrete threat

"We can’t say that there are 300 terrorists in Finland. Roughly 70 fighters have left Finland to fight abroad, including among the ranks of IS; a couple dozen have returned to Finland. Additionally there are some asylum seeker cases where we have found indications or connections suggesting that they have participated in terrorist activities," Interior Minister Petteri Orpo told Yle Tuesday afternoon.

The Minister stressed that the most concrete threat to national security remained attacks by Finns opposed to immigration and clashes with asylum seekers. He called for a heightened police presence at reception centres to help prevent attacks on asylum seekers.

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