Gunman kills five then himself in Finland

HELSINKI Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:22am EST

1 of 5. A video grab shows police officers entering a shopping mall after a shooting, in Espoo December 31, 2009. At least three people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Finnish shopping mall on Thursday, Finnish media reported, in the country's third multiple shooting incident in as many years.

Credit: Reuters/Reuters TV

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - A Kosovan-born gunman shot dead four people in a Finnish shopping mall on Thursday and killed his ex-girlfriend in an apartment before killing himself in Finland's third shooting spree in as many years.

Police said Ibrahim Shkupolli, 43, killed three men and a woman at the Sello mall in Espoo, a town near Helsinki, as shoppers stocked up for the New Year holiday.

They confirmed that Shkupolli, as well as his ex-girlfriend who had worked at the mall, were among the dead after the five-hour incident.

"It has been confirmed that the sixth victim is the suspect (himself). He was found in his home," Chief Inspector Jukka Kaski told a news conference.

Police said Shkupolli was already known to them and had a foreign background, but refused to say what nationality he held.

However, a Kosovo police source said the gunman was from Mitrovica in the former Serbian province which declared its independence last year, and had visited the town last month.

Finnish police would not confirm his motive. However, they said Shkupolli had been under a court order banning him from contacting his ex-girlfriend, who was found dead at an apartment in Espoo, and that the shootings were probably linked to their relationship. Local media said the gunman had previous convictions for firearms offences.

The New Year's Eve carnage followed shootings at Finnish schools in 2007 and 2008, after which Helsinki tightened gun control regulations, with further restrictions planned.

A Reuters reporter at the Sello mall, one of Finland's largest shopping centres, saw helicopters overhead and fire trucks around the entrances after the shootings. The mall was shut down as police hunted the gunman.

"When we were going out I heard sounds like shots from the third floor, and then I left," said a mall employee, who declined to give her name.

"I paid for my groceries and I wanted to go to my car when I was told that you cannot go there," shopper Jorma Romo told Reuters outside of the mall. "They were hurrying people out and people were asking (why)."

(Additional reporting by Fatos Bytyci in Pristina; Editing by David Stamp)

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