Of the over 40 people who are known to have left Finland for Syria, one in five are women and three in four hold Finnish citizenship. In addition, the group includes an indeterminate number of native Finns.
Jyri Rantala, the communications director at Supo, believes the diversity of the group to be an indication of an altogether new phenomenon. “Nothing like this has been seen before – that people from 16 different ethnic backgrounds leave to wage a single jihad,” he highlighted in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat.
Previously, he added, it was not uncommon for a Finn from a Kurdish background to travel to Kurdish regions or a Finn from a Somali background to travel to Somalia.
According to Rantala, most of the Finnish jihadists in Syria have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and some the al-Nusra Front. However, he reminded that the group also includes people involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid and people whose role in insurgent activities remains unclear to Supo.
The participation of Finns in the hostilities has regardless increased notably. In March 2013, Supo was aware of no more than five to six people who had left Finland for Syria. Yet, Rantala is not aware of any active recruitment networks operating in Finland.
On Monday, Supo also urged people aware of the intentions of their friends or family members to travel to Syria to contact the authorities without delay. “It’s really dangerous.”
Thus far, three Finnish citizens are believed to have died in the hostilities in Syria – two from Espoo and one from Turku.
Pekka Mykkänen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: A screen-shot of a video uploaded to Youtube purportedly by ISIS.