Police officers stand guard outside Viertola comprehensive school, in Vantaa,...

Police officers stand guard outside Viertola comprehensive school, in Vantaa, Finland, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Police in Finland say a 12-year-old student has opened fire at a secondary school in southern Finland and wounded three other students. The suspect was later arrested. Heavily armed police on Tuesday cordoned off the lower secondary school, with some 800 students, in the city of Vantaa, just outside the capital, Helsinki, after receiving a call about a shooting incident at 09:08 a.m. Police said both the suspect and the wounded were 12 years old. Credit: AP/Markku Ulander

HELSINKI — A 12-year-old student opened fire at a secondary school in southern Finland on Tuesday morning, killing one and seriously wounding two other students, police said. The suspect was later apprehended.

Heavily armed police cordoned off the Viertola school — a large educational institution including lower and upper secondary schools with a total of about 800 students — in the city of Vantaa, just outside the capital, Helsinki, after receiving a call about a shooting incident at 09:08 a.m.

Police said both the suspect and the victims were 12 years old.

One of the students had died instantly after being shot, Chief of Police Ilkka Koskimäki from the Eastern Uusimaa Police Department told a news conference. The other two were seriously wounded, he said.

The weapon used in the shooting was a registered handgun that was licensed to the suspect’s relative, Detective Inspector Kimmo Hyvärinen said.

The suspect was detained in the Helsinki area less than one hour after the shooting with a handgun in his possession, police said. He admitted to the shooting in an initial police hearing but there is no immediate word of the motive, police said, adding that the case is being investigated as a murder and two attempted murders.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo offered condolences to the families of the victims in postings on X with both saying they were shocked over the shooting.

Police officers at the scene of Viertola comprehensive school, in...

Police officers at the scene of Viertola comprehensive school, in Vantaa, Finland, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Finnish police say a number of people were wounded in a shooting at a school outside Helsinki and a suspect was detained. Credit: AP/Markku Ulander

“What makes it particularly shocking is the age of the victim and the suspect,” Orpo said during a news conference later Tuesday. “I can assure you that this (shooting) will be carefully reviewed and conclusions will be drawn that this will not happen again."

The minimum age of criminal liability in Finland is 15 years, which means the suspect cannot be formally arrested. A suspect younger than 15 can only be heard by the police after which they will be handed over to Finland’s child welfare authorities.

In the past decades, Finland has witnessed two major deadly school shootings.

In November 2007, a 18-year-old student armed with a semi-automatic pistol opened fire at the premises of the Jokela high school in Tuusula, southern Finland, killing nine people. He was found dead with self-inflicted wounds.

Police officers and vehicles at the scene of Viertola comprehensive...

Police officers and vehicles at the scene of Viertola comprehensive school, in Vantaa, Finland, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Finnish police say a number of people were wounded in a shooting at a school outside Helsinki and a suspect was detained. Credit: AP/Markku Ulander

Less than a year later, in September 2008, a 22-year-old student shot and killed 10 people with a semi-automatic pistol at a vocational college in Kauhajoki, southwestern Finland, before fatally shooting himself.

In the Nordic nation of 5.6 million, there are more than 1.5 million licensed firearms and about 430,000 license holders, according to the Finnish Interior Ministry. Hunting and gun-ownership have long traditions in the sparsely-populated northern European country.

Responsibility for granting permits for ordinary firearms rests with local police departments.

Following the school shootings in 2007 and 2008, Finland tightened its gun laws by raising the minimum age for firearms ownership and giving police greater powers to make background checks on individuals applying for a gun license.

The Interior Ministry said Finland will pay respects to the victims of the school shooting on Wednesday when all state agencies and institutions will lower the national flag to half staff. Private households are encouraged to join in the commemoration, the ministry said.

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