HELSINKI: A 12-year-old opened fire Tuesday at a school north of the Finnish capital Helsinki, killing a fellow student and seriously injuring two others before being taken into custody, police said.

The Viertola school in Vantaa, Finland’s fourth-largest city, has around 90 staff and 800 pupils in grades one to nine, or aged seven to 15.

“Today, after 9:00 am, a shooting incident took place at a school... in which a sixth grader, a student of the school, died,“ Ilkka Koskimaki, chief of the Eastern Uusimaa police department, told a press conference, adding that two others were “seriously injured”.

Police had earlier said that both the suspect and the injured were 12 years old. They have opened an investigation into murder and attempted murder.

The child who was killed died at the scene, and the suspect had already left the school by the time police arrived.

The suspect, who was carrying a gun, was arrested in a “calm manner” around 10 am and had admitted being the shooter in a preliminary interrogation.

Iltalehti newspaper published a video filmed from a passing car showing two police officers pinning down a child by the side of a road in a residential area.

- ‘Gunshots’ -

Owing to the suspect’s young age, police said the child would not be held in custody, but would be turned over to social services after being interviewed.

Ayan Hanif, a student at the school, told AFP that he and his classmates had just gone outside for a physical excercise class when teachers told them to hurry back inside and sit on the floor.

“I think I heard one or two gunshots but I’m not sure,“ the 13-year-old said.

Another witness told Iltalehti that shots had echoed across the schoolyard.

“At first I didn’t understand it was a weapon. Then a terrible scream could be heard and children ran across the yard,“ the witness said.

A large number of police officers, some carrying body armour and rifles had gathered outside the school.

Parents of the students told journalists the shooting took place in a classroom, but police did not specify any details about the shootings during a press conference.

The weapon the suspect was carrying belonged to a relative and there were no other suspects, according to police.

Concerned parents arrived shortly after news of the shooting broke and waited outside the cordoned off school in the near freezing temperature.

“My daughter is still there in the school building and we’re waiting for the children to come out,“ Janne Savolainen told AFP.

Savolainen added that he it was a “huge surprise” that the shooting had occurred at the school.

“We are talking about an elementary school so they’re small children,“ he said.

- ‘Shocking’ day -

Police had urged the public to stay away from the area and remain indoors.

“Do not open the door to strangers,“ they added in a statement.

Shortly after noon, police had begun letting parents who were waiting outside the school inside to see their children, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb, said in a post to X that he was “shocked” by the event.

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the deceased student,“ Stubb said.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said he was “deeply shocked” and his thoughts were with the victims, their relatives and the other students and staff.

Finland witnessed two gruesome school shootings in the early 2000s.

In November 2007, an 18-year-old man opened fire at a secondary school in Jokela, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Helsinki, killing the headmaster and a nurse along with six students before turning the gun on himself.

A year later, in September 2008, 22-year-old Matti Juhani Saari killed 11 people at a vocational school in the western town of Kauhajoki.

Since then, hundreds of schools have received shooting threats, according to an article published in the Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention.

The article pointed to mental health problems as the main reason behind the increase. -AFP

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