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World News

Finnish gunman planned rampage for six years

KAUHAJOKI, Finland (Reuters) - Finnish police said a man who shot dead 10 people on Tuesday had been planning his killing spree since 2002, and had “very likely” been in contact with the student behind a similar gun rampage last year.

Candles are placed at the Kauhajoki vocational high school in Kauhajoki September 24, 2008. Finland mourned the dead of its second school shooting in less than a year on Wednesday, and questioned whether it was time to clamp down hard on private gun ownership. Matti Saari, 22, shot and killed 10 people on Tuesday at a vocational school in Kauhajoki in western Finland -- days after drawing police attention with online videos of himself at a gun range -- and then turned the gun on himself. REUTERS/Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen .

Matti Saari, 22, killed nine fellow students -- eight female and one male -- and one male staff member at a travel and hospitality industry college a day after being interviewed by police about online videos of himself at a gun range.

“There was a note found at his home saying ‘I have always wanted to murder as many people as possible’,” the National Bureau of Investigation’s Jari Neulaniemi told a news conference on Wednesday.

Neulaniemi told Reuters later on Wednesday that Saari was probably also in touch with Pekka-Eric Auvinen, an 18-year-old who killed eight people last November in Jokela, southern Finland, after broadcasting his intent in a YouTube video clip.

“It is very likely (that they were in contact),” Neulaniemi said. “It would not be a surprise if we found that out.”

Tuesday’s shooting in Kauhajoki, in western Finland, was a fresh shock for the Nordic country which is still reeling from the Jokela massacre last November.

Media focused on the parallels between Jokela and Kauhajoki, including boastful Internet videos and the same caliber handgun.

Saari listed on the Web two favorite videos about the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, where 12 students and a teacher were killed. In one of his Internet clips, he points to the camera, says “You will die next,” and fires four rapid shots.

Both Auvinen’s and Saari’s acts were preceded by menacing Internet video clips. Like Auvinen, Saari turned his gun on himself and died later in hospital of a head wound. Police said Saari bought his gun in Jokela.

SELF-EXAMINATION

Flags flew at half staff across the country on Wednesday as Finns questioned what had prompted Saari to cut down his fellow students in the middle of an exam day.

“He seems to be a young man with two faces -- a silent boy at school, but he led another life in his hostel apartment with the laptop,” said Tapio Varmola, principal of Seinajoki University of Applied Sciences which runs the Kauhajoki college where Saari was a student.

All but one victim were so badly burned in fires set by Saari that police said they would have to rely on DNA testing and dental records for final identification of the bodies.

The second school shooting in less than a year in a country with among the highest gun ownership rates but relatively low crime prompted tough questions about gun ownership, the role of the Internet and the failure of police to confiscate Saari’s gun after learning of his macabre videos.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said Finland should consider a total ban on private handguns and hunters said they would also support tougher legislation. Interior Minister Anne Holmlund said she favored tighter laws but ruled out resigning despite the calls from some opposition politicians.

National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero told a news conference he also backed tighter gun laws, and that the police would monitor the Internet closer for at least the next month.

Reporting by Sakari Suoninen and Brett Young in Helsinki, Ilze Filks and Sofia Hilden in Stockholm, and Claire Watson in Kauhajoki; Editing by Jon Boyle

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