Terrorist threat assessment
The threat of extreme right-wing terrorism has grown. The foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon has increased and strengthened the international connections of radical Islamist operators in Finland. The threat of terrorism has remained at level two, meaning elevated.
Supo has assessed the threat of terrorism in Finland as elevated, corresponding to level two on the four-point scale. The threat level is unchanged compared to last year but the threat picture related to the far right is more worrying than before.
The greatest threat of a terrorist attack is posed by lone operators or small groups advocating far-right or radical Islamist ideology. Straightforward attacks using readily available instruments such as knives and vehicles remain most likely, but use of firearms and explosives is also possible. The threat of attacks arranged abroad by terrorist organisations operating in conflict areas is minimal in Finland.
Significant terrorist support activities can nevertheless be found in Finland, and some 390 individuals are categorised as counter-terrorism target individuals. This figure has not changed significantly since last year. Many of these target individuals have received weapons training, been involved in armed conflict, or expressed a desire to take part in armed operations. The list of target individuals is not permanent, and individuals are continually added and removed.
The threat from the far right has grown
The threat from the far right has increased in Finland. Supo has identified some far-right operators with the ability and motivation to mount a terrorist attack.
In Western countries, the threat of far-right terrorism has emerged in recent years in the form of numerous attacks and attack projects. Individuals posing such terrorist threats do not typically belong to organised far-right groups.
Both far-right perpetrators and looser groups that support terrorist activity have actively employed the Internet to spread propaganda, recruit and network internationally. The far-right target individuals identified by Supo are also typically linked to the international online environment of the extreme right.
The foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon has increased and strengthened the international connections of radical Islamist operators in Finland
The threat of radical Islamist terrorism has stayed at the previous level. The capacity of the Islamic State (Isil) terrorist organisation has declined since its peak years, but the organisation continues to operate actively in the conflict zones of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Isil is still able to inspire its supporters, and is also seeking to carry out attacks in Europe. Isil propaganda also portrays Finland as a hostile country.
Most counter-terrorism targets are linked to radical Islamist activity. Finland’s radical Islamist networks are multi-ethnic and intergenerational. The foreign terrorist fighter phenomenon has increased and strengthened the international connections of radical Islamist operators in Finland. Several people returned to Finland from the Syrian conflict zone and its al-Hol camp in 2020.
Most returnees from the conflict zone are likely to continue operating in radical-Islamist networks, for example by recruiting and disseminating extremist ideology. Supo finds that individuals returning from conflict zones pose a threat to national security in the short and long term.
Supo monitors the threat posed by the far-left movement and the PKK
Supo also monitors and assesses the threat to national security posed by the far-left movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the European Union classifies as a terrorist organisation. In Finland – and more broadly in Europe – the PKK has focused on actively supporting its operations in Kurdish regions. A few volunteers who have joined armed organisations with a Kurdish background and participated in conflict in the region have also travelled from Finland to the Syrian conflict zone.
The coronavirus pandemic has had no impact on the national threat level
While restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have reduced the number of potential attack targets, such as public gatherings and mass events, some terrorist attacks occurred both within and beyond the borders of Europe in 2020. The pandemic has had no impact on the level of the terrorist threat nationally.
Terrorist operators have exploited the pandemic to reinforce images of the enemy in their propaganda. Radical Islamists have painted a picture of the pandemic as vengeance against heretics, while the far right has viewed the circumstances as an opportunity to accelerate the collapse of social order.
International events may inspire attacks
Terrorist attacks can be triggered by international events with security policy ramifications and the media attention that they receive. For example, the antagonism in France surrounding cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in late 2020 mobilised individual operators to commit acts of violence.
Details of the attacks, their perpetrators and related manifestos spread rapidly on social media and messaging applications. Such attacks and the associated propaganda can inspire individuals in particular to mount similar attacks, even within a short time frame.
Certain national locations, times and events of great symbolic value may be subject to an elevated threat of terrorism. People from Finland may also become targets of generalised attacks against the West while abroad.
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 threat of terrorism
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.
Terrorist attacks are the most serious and visible manifestation of terrorism. While most planned attacks in Europe do not materialise due to the counter-terrorism work of public authorities, a significant element of terrorist activity comprises covert offences that support terrorism in various ways.
These offences include preparing and disseminating propaganda to justify violence and encouraging others to support terrorist operatives.