The terrorist threat assessment is an overview of terrorism

The terrorist threat in Finland has remained at level two (elevated) since 2017. Lone operators pose the greatest threat of terrorist attack in Finland, irrespective of ideology.

Supo updates the terrorist threat assessment at least once a year. The purpose of the threat assessment is to provide an up-to-date picture on the terrorist threat in Finland, based on best available information. 

The latest threat assessment was published in April 2020.

Terrorist threat against Finland and Finnish interests

The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo) has assessed the threat of terrorism in Finland at level two, i.e. elevated. Although this level has not changed since the previous threat assessment issued in June 2017, the situation and operating scope of terrorism have changed both in Finland and internationally. Travel to conflict zones has strengthened both networking and the ability and capacity to engage in acts of violence. This change applies particularly to radical Islamist terrorism, but also to right-wing and left-wing extremism.

The growth of radical Islamist networks in Finland is conforming to international trends. In the same way as the individuals who departed for the conflict zone, radical Islamist networks in Finland are multi-ethnic and intergenerational. Marriages are concluded within networks, potentially hampering disengagement from radical ideology and reinforcing the radicalisation of future generations. The groups and networks in Finland that promote terrorist operations have contacts abroad in both Muslim-majority and Western countries.

Returnees from the Syrian conflict zone pose security threats both in the short and long term

Supo considers that returnees from the Syrian conflict zone pose both immediate and indirect security threats in the short and long term. Besides the threat of terrorism, people returning from the conflict zone are likely to trigger reactions in the immigrant population, in extremist movements and among the general public. Returnees are also potential targets of hate crime. In addition to the national security implications, people returning from the conflict zone may have a broader impact on the European terrorist situation and counter-terrorism work, for example through their established networks and travel within the Schengen Area.

Dozens of men and women travelled from Finland to the Syrian conflict zone in 2012–2016 to join the ISIL terrorist organisation or to live in the Caliphate that it initially declared, and which subsequently collapsed. Some of these individuals died in the conflict zone. The factors underlying personal decisions to travel to an area controlled by Isil, or by another terrorist organisation or group, are largely individual.

People living in the conflict zone have been exposed to an extremely radicalising environment, even for several years. The rising generation comprising the children of those who support terrorist activities give cause for concern from the perspective of the future evolution of religiously motivated violent extremism. Children represent the future and ideological continuity for terrorist organisations.

Isil remains a threat

Isil remains a threat despite its territorial losses in Syria and Iraq, with functional networks that it can call upon in external operations, disseminating propaganda, recruiting and fundraising. As a member of the anti-ISIL coalition, Isil regards Finland as a legitimate target for terrorist operations.

The radical Islamist organisations Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab constitute a smaller but non-negligible terrorist threat. Though their operations are mainly focused on conflict zones in Asia and Africa, and on unstable countries, they reflect a strongly anti-Western and global jihadist ideology.

The threat of extreme right-wing terrorism has grown in Western countries. The inspirational impact of recent attacks, social confrontation and especially online radicalisation encourage similar individual acts of violence in Finland.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has cross-border support operations in Finland that involve extreme left-wing anti-fascists.

The Middle East is the theatre for a complex and continually evolving conflict between several State and non-State actors. The progress of this conflict may affect the threat of radical Islamist and other terrorism in Europe.

Lone operators or groups are the primary threat

Finland harbours significant terrorist support activities and international networks, with known resident and visiting individuals and groups possessing the motivation and ability to carry out terrorist attacks. The threat of a religiously motivated terrorist attack on Finland comes primarily from lone operators or groups pursuing radical Islamist ideology and objectives.

Lone operators also pose the greatest threat of terrorist attack, irrespective of ideology. While a straightforward attack using readily available instruments is the most likely action and methodology, use of firearms and explosives is also a possibility.

No change in the number of CT targets

There was no significant change in the number of CT targets in 2019. This number stood at about 390 persons at the end of 2019. Activation of recruiting and promotion networks associated with the conflict in Syria and Iraq and the foreign fighter phenomenon almost doubled the number of CT targets in previous years. No factors that would significantly affect the number of CT targets in the longer term are currently visible, though qualitative changes in conditions may occur.

The intensive increase in the number of CT targets in the 2010s, the August 2017 terrorist attack in Turku and the conflict in Syria all show that international events can have a significant radicalising and mobilising effect on the national situation. Events outside Finland may also trigger violent religiously or politically motivated acts and confrontation between various groups.

There are targets representing other countries and various religious traditions in Finland, together with international events held here that also face a heightened threat, both from terrorist organisations and from lone radical operators. Sites, times and events of great national and symbolic value may be subject to a particularly elevated threat of terrorism. The threat level may also increase due to trends in terrorism, such as straightforward and unsophisticated attacks on crowds or locations representing population segments, and to media coverage of such attacks. The threat of terrorist attacks on Western interests and tourist destinations has increased, so people from Finland may also be targeted in the course of strikes against Western countries abroad.

Threat levels

Threat levels are used to describe the terrorist threat against Finland and Finnish interests. The factors taken into account when assessing the threat level include the available intelligence, operational capacity and motivation of terrorist organisations or persons and groups linked to them, and the time span of possible attack plans. The aim of the classification is to provide a clear picture of the nature of the threat against Finland and to determine whether the threat level has changed from the previous assessment.