Nine killed in Finnish school shooting

Helsinki - A 22-year-old student killed nine persons and seriously wounded himself Tuesday in a school massacre in western Finland, with officials disclosing that police had met with the alleged suspect on the eve of the killing spree.

The Finnish news agency STT said at least two people were wounded in the shooting spree at the trade school in Kauhajoki, about 300 kilometres north-west of the capital Helsinki.

Interior Minister Anne Holmlund told reporters that police had contacted the man last week and then again on Monday over reports that he had posted a video of a shooting scene on the internet.

She said the man had received his gun permit in August. A probe into the incident is now being launched, she said.

Police said the 22-year-old gunman, whom they identified as Matti Juhani Saari, had a license for a 22-calibre handgun. After talking with him on Monday evening, they did not seize the weapon.

The suspected gunman was seen wearing a ski mask and carrying a bag before the shooting, according to school employees quoted in local media reports.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and other cabinet members deplored the shooting and expressed their sympathy with the victims. Parliament ordered a moment of silence as hotlines and crisis management teams were mobilized.

STT reported that the suspect had sustained a gunshot wound to the head in a suicide attempt and was taken to hospital in Tampere, south of Kauhajoki.

Hospital officials said his condition was critical.

The school bloodshed is the worst in the country's history and comes less than a year after eight people including six students were killed at a high school in Jokela, 60 kilometres north of Helsinki.

Prior to that November 2007 incident, the 18-year-old student gunman had also posted a video on YouTube. The incident triggered a series of threats against schools in Finland and its Nordic neighbours, while also sparking calls for tougher legislation on gun ownership. The legislation is still under review.

Online media sites and chat groups published images Tuesday taken from the video sharing site YouTube with a clip of a young man, identified as 'Herra S.' who said he was 22 years old and from Kauhajoki.

The clip showed him with a Walther P22 pistol at a shooting range. The clip was accompanied by a gloomy poem with the words 'and suddenly there was war and the mothers they screamed.'