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Violent extremist groups operate throughout the country

Ministry of the Interior
Publication date 16.4.2020 11.17 | Published in English on 20.4.2020 at 15.56
Press release 29/2020
Shadows of people downtown.
Photo: Laura Kotila / Prime Minister's Office

Different parts of Finland are reporting engagement in activities by violent extremist movements. Violent non-parliamentary far right movements are active in the areas of all police departments. In some areas, there are also reports of activities of violent non-parliamentary far left groups, mainly anarchists and anti-fascists. These conclusions are presented in the new situation overview of violent extremism.

The jihadist organisation Daesh (also referred to as ISIS or ISIL) continues to pose a global threat. The complex conflict occurring in Syria and Iraq has shown that international incidents can have a significant impact on radicalisation and mobilisation within Finland as well. Hate speech has increased, creating a breeding ground for violent extremism and radicalisation. Anti-Semitism has also been rearing its head over the past year. 

“It is important that preventive measures are based on a shared understanding and awareness of situations. The activities of violent non-parliamentary far right groups have become more visible in Finland, while the related terrorist threat has increased in Europe and more widely. The activities of violent far right movements feed the activities of violent anarchists and anti-fascists. The threat associated with violent radical Islamism has not disappeared either,” says Head of Development Tarja Mankkinen.

The threat of the violent far right is manifested, for example, as spontaneous street violence against perceived enemies who may be selected as victims at random. The fear and feeling of insecurity created by the violent far right may also weaken everyday safety and security, especially in areas where the activities of these groups are visible. At the same time, actions taken by the violent non-parliamentary far left have been less common in Finland over the past few years and, as a rule, they take the form of demonstrations. 

Individuals present the greatest threat of serious violence regardless of ideology

The most significant terrorist threat is posed by radical Islamist terrorism. The threat of terrorism in Finland is still at the second level, or ‘elevated’, on the four-tier scale of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service. According to the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, there are substantial activities taking place in Finland in support of terrorism and there are identified persons and groups with the motivation and ability to carry out a terrorist attack. The most likely form of attack is a simple one that could be carried out with easily available tools. The use of firearms and explosives is also possible. 

Both radical Islamist and political extremist movements are operating in Finland. Individual actors present a major threat of trying to carry out a terrorist attack and trying to kill a large number of people regardless of ideology. These individuals seldom act alone; they are usually part of some kind of social group that is active on the internet. 

Hate speech creates a breeding ground for violent extremism

Hate speech has increased, and this has created a breeding ground for violent extremism and radicalisation. Violent extremist groups are spreading hate speech with the aim of recruiting more supporters to adopt their ideas. Hate speech that incites violence is dangerous, as it can encourage individuals to commit acts of violence. Hate campaigns and online shaming are aimed at having a wider impact on society. Hate speech has far-reaching effects, and it is particularly harmful when directed at vulnerable individuals and groups. 

Anti-Semitism is increasing in Europe and is also visible in Finland

During 2019, anti-Semitism emerged widely in Europe and in Finland as well. Anti-Semitism combines several forms of political and religious extremism. It is primarily expressed in Finland as anti-Semitic rhetoric, propaganda, vandalism and the threat of violence. There have been terrorist attacks against Jewish targets in Europe. 
In Finland, there are a few openly anti-Semitic right-wing groups, of which the Nordic Resistance Movement (Pohjoismainen Vastarintaliike) is the most clearly anti-Semitic. 

Situation overviews examine all forms of violent extremism

Since 2013, the Ministry of the Interior has regularly published situation overviews of violent extremism. The overviews examine the activities and developments of all violent extremist groups operating in Finland based on the knowledge of the authorities and researchers. These groups include the violent non-parliamentary far right and left, religiously motivated violent extremism, radical alternative movements and individual actors who justify violent acts with ideas or ideologies.  

The overviews are drafted under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, together with key experts. The purpose is to make it easier for the general public, professionals from various fields and non-governmental organisations to identify and prevent violent radicalisation and extremism and the activities of extremist movements. The situation overviews are based on situation awareness of the phenomenon held by the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, the National Bureau of Investigation and local police departments, and on research data, information generated by key experts, experiences from abroad and other unclassified sources of information. 

Tarja Mankkinen, Head of Development, tel. +358 295 488 370, [email protected]