There’s been a “significant increase” in the number of people involved in jihadist activities in Finland over the last decade.
That’s the conclusion of two new studies by researchers at the University of Helsinki, commissioned by the Ministry of Interior, and released today.
The reports find that although the scale of the activities are still very small, over the last ten years there’s been a surge in people providing financial support or help with recruiting for radical Islamic activities in Finland – including online communications.
The biggest factor in the way jihadist activity has evolved has been the conflict in Syria and Iraq, which attracted new supporters and activists from different backgrounds, although the study finds the growth in support of ISIS has fallen away as the conflict in the region has ebbed.
“Today there is a lot of talk about jihadist activity, but so far we have had very little research-based information on the situation in Finland” says university lecturer Leena Malkki.
“The aim of the research project was to construct a general picture of the forms of jihadist activity in Finland” she explains.
No knowledge of attack plans
So far, the only jihadist attack in Finland happened in August 2017, when a failed asylum seeker went on a stabbing rampage in Turku, killing two people and injuring eight others.
However, the Ministry of Interior stresses that while several cases of online threats have been made, they have all proven unfounded and there is no public knowledge of any attack plans that should be taken seriously.
Although the migrant crisis in 2015 brought more people to Finland who had jihadist contacts, the activity “is still mostly sporadic and not very well organised” according to the new reports.
Evolving jihadist communications
One of the new reports from researchers at the University of Helsinki looked at the growth of jihadist communications online since 2010.
Finns have been mentioned in ISIS materials, and people living in Finland produced and distributed jihadist content in Finnish.
“This reflects the general trend in jihadist activity connected to Finland. in international comparisons, however, the volume of communication related to Finland is still small” says the report.
Researchers found, unsurprisingly, that the amount of open communications between jihadists had decreased, as it moved to closed and encrypted messaging channels where information about Finland could still be spread, but more securely.