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Gunman kills 10 at school in Finland, then self

Oklahoman Published: September 23, 2008
KAUHAJOKI, Finland (AP) - A masked gunman whose violent YouTube postings prompted police to bring him in for questioning opened fire Tuesday at his trade school in western Finland, killing ten people before shooting himself in the head.

Witnesses said panic broke out as the gunman dressed in black and carrying a large bag entered the school in Kauhajoki, 180 miles northwest of Helsinki, and started firing in a classroom where students were taking an exam. The shootings began just before 11 a.m. local time (0800GMT), as about 150 students were at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality.

"I heard several dozen rounds of shots, in other words it was an automatic pistol," school janitor Jukka Forsberg told Finnish broadcaster YLE. "I saw some female students who were wailing and moaning and one managed to escape out the back door."

The gunman had been questioned Monday by police about YouTube postings in which he is seen firing a handgun, but was released because there was no legal reason to hold him, Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said.

It was Finland's second school massacre in less than a year and the two attacks had eerie similarities. Both gunman posted violent clips on YouTube prior to the massacres, both were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado, both attacked their own school and both died after shooting themselves in the head.

Kauhajoki Mayor Antti Rantakokko said nine victims were killed at first. The gunman was taken to a hospital in Tampere, about two hours away, along with a female victim he had shot in the head, and hospital officials said later that both had died.

Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat said police identified the gunman as Matti Juhani Saari, a 22-year-old student.

"We have experienced a tragic day," Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said as he expressed condolences to the families of the victims and declared Wednesday a day of mourning.

Finnish authorities did not confirm exactly what YouTube clips were linked to the shooter.

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