HELSINKI, April 3 — Finland will fly its flags at half-mast today to mark the country’s mourning after a 12-year-old opened fire at a school, killing one classmate and seriously injuring two others.

All public buildings and institutions will lower their flags from 8.00am (1.00pm Malaysian time), the Interior Ministry said on its website.

The ministry encouraged the whole country to participate in the event.

On Tuesday morning, a 12-year-old boy opened fire at his school in Vantaa, Finland’s fourth-largest city.

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The school has around 90 staff and 800 pupils aged seven to 15.

According to the Finnish TV channel MTV Uutiset, the boy wore a mask and noise-cancelling headphones while carrying out the shooting.

The child who was killed, also aged 12, died at the scene, and the suspect had already fled the school by the time police arrived.

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They have opened an investigation into murder and attempted murder.

The suspect, who was carrying a gun, was arrested in a “calm manner” within an hour of the shooting and admitted to being the shooter in a preliminary interrogation.

There were no other suspects, police said.

They said the weapon the suspect was carrying belonged to a relative.

‘Deeply upsetting’

“The police are investigating, among other things, the motive for the act and the reasons for the incident,” Detective Chief Inspector Marko Sarkka, who is leading the investigation, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sarkka added that the boy would not be incarcerated as he is under 15 years old and so cannot be held criminally responsible.

Police also said a technical investigation of the crime scene had begun at the school, which would continue today.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said in a statement that the incident was “deeply upsetting”, adding that his thoughts were with the victims, their parents, other pupils and teachers.

“In the coming days, we must be present for the children and young people, offer them words of comfort and show them that we care about them,” he said in a statement.

“They may be scared or have questions. It is important that we talk about the incident in our homes.”

Finnish President Alexander Stubb said in a post on social media platform X that he was “shocked” by the shooting.

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

‘Take violence seriously’

Elina Pekkarinen, Finland’s Children’s Rights Ombudsman, told Finnish news agency STT, that “for years (we have been repeating) that we need to take violence between children in society seriously”.

Acts of violence, particularly amongst children under 15 years old, have been on the rise for several years, she added.

Finland has already witnessed several gruesome school attacks in recent decades.

In November 2007, an 18-year-old man opened fire at a secondary school in Jokela, around 50 kilometres north of Helsinki, killing the headmaster and a nurse along with six pupils 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.

In October 2019, a college student, armed with a sabre, killed a 23-year-old woman and wounded nine others at a vocational school in the city of Kuopio. — AFP