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Security Intelligence Service: Finnish combatants abroad may number more than thought

The Finish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) says their intel may be lagging behind on how many people have left Finland to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Pekka Hiltunen
NBI researcher Pekka Hiltunen. Image: Yle

Special researcher Pekka Hiltunen from the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) says that the number of combatants who have left Finland in order to fight in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts may be 10-20 percent larger than presumed.

Hiltunen says that fighters may have ended up in conflict zones without being identified by the bureau. Supo has confirmed that 80 people from Finland have traveled to Syria and Iraq to take part in local armed conflicts. In fact, that number may be closer to 100.

"The larger the figure the less likely it is. But it's probably a couple dozen percent more than 80 individuals," Hiltunen said on Yle's A-studio politics programme on Tuesday.

Hiltunen emphasises that the projection is his own personal estimate.

Supo has previously claimed that 20 people fighting for extremist group Isis have returned to Finland after staying in Syria and/or Iraq. Hiltunen declined to directly comment on the accuracy of this figure, or on how many of the fighters' family members may have followed them.

"People returning after spending time in conflict areas are assessed case by case. Some of them may represent security threats, while others may be in need of support," Hiltunen says.

Edit: Hiltunen is a researcher at the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo), not the National Bureau of Intelligence (KRP).

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