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Poll: Over half of Finns think a terrorist attack likely within a year

An Yle-commissioned survey has found that 54 percent of respondents believe that a terrorist attack is likely to take place in Finland in the near future. At the same time, though, public trust in officials charged with maintaining security remains high.

The site of a terrorist attack in central Stockholm on April 7th of this year. Image: Jonas Ekstromer / EPA

A majority of Finnish residents polled by Taloustutkimus for Yle said that they think a terrorist attack in the country within the next year is very probable or at least rather probable.

An earlier poll commissioned by Yle found that the recent terrorist attack in central Stockholm increased fear of violence and terrorism among the general public in Finland.

Hussein Al-Taee, an expert on terrorism and the project manager for Iraq of the Helsinki-based Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), told Yle that he understands the concern reflected by the poll.

"There have recently been attacks in Finland's vicinity, in both St. Petersburg and Stockholm. In reality, the situation in Finland is a bit different than in those countries and cities. Indeed the risk is possible and it has recently increased, considering how many people there are being watched [by security officials]," he said.

"The number of people who are potentially the perpetrators of an attack is much smaller than elsewhere. Another thing that is different about Finland is that it is much better prepared than some other countries," Al-Taee added.

The poll surveyed the views of 1,002 people. The margin of error is three percentage points.

Officials trusted

Even though nearby attacks clearly have residents of the country on their toes, confidence in public officials and in the government has remained more or less at a high level. A majority, 56 percent of respondents to this latest poll said they believe that preparations to prevent a terrorist attack are either very or rather good.

In contrast, 28 percent consider preparations rather or very poor. Nearly one in five Finns Party supporters considers Finland very poorly prepared to prevent a terrorist attack.

According to the CMI's Hussein Al-Taee, there is a need to revise legislation and increase resources to keep anti-terrorism intelligence up to date. At present, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) is not permitted to gather intelligence abroad, even though there is a significant number of people from Finland in conflict areas.

"It should be possible to find out the intentions of foreign combatants there, where they are right now, before they return back to Finland or the Nordic region," Al-Taee points out. "In this respect, increased resources earmarked specifically for intelligence and defence are important."

Soft and hard means

How then to reduce the threat of terrorism? Half of participants in the poll were in favour of an emphasis on so-called "soft" measures, meaning a focus on preventing social exclusion and effective integration policies.

A significant minority, 40 percent, backed the idea of tougher action, such as more restrictive immigration policy and harsher criminal sentences.

It is Al-Taee's view that both are needed.

"In the long term, the soft measures produce a better result. At the same time, hard measures are also important. These communicate a certain type of warning that if one crosses the line, the state is also able to react strongly," says Hussein Al-Taee.

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