Jersey barriers rose in front of the Temppeliaukio Church at the Etu-Töölö district in Helsinki late on Monday evening, while the sun was setting on the horizon. Two teenaged girls were giggling on the roof of the church, which is excavated deep into the rock.
On Sunday, the police wearing masks and harnessing dogs were searching for suspected terrorists in a large-scale police operation. In result, the authorities decided to block the entrance leading to the church.
The barriers blocking the church entrance is the most visible measure to the public while countering terrorism on a raised threat level.
The threat is bigger than ever before; at a new four-tier scale, the level is now elevated, according to the new terrorist threat assesment released by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) last Wednesday.
[alert type=blue ] The number of target individuals has risen especially in the last few years and increased by circa 80 percent since 2012.[/alert]
According to Supo, the most significant terrorist threat in Finland is still posed by individual actors or small groups motivated by radical Islamist propaganda or terrorist organizations encouraging them.
Supo has become aware of more serious terrorism-related projects and plans in Finland. Supo is observing about 350 individuals who could be linked to terrorism. The number of target individuals has risen especially in the last few years and increased by circa 80 percent since 2012. In the public eye, the raised threat level shows in a larger police presence.
According to Supo, Finland’s profile within the radical Islamist propaganda has become stronger. For example, Temppeliaukio Church has been depicted in an online magazine called Dabiq, used by ISIS for propaganda and recruitment.
Temppeliaukio Church will, however, remain open as usual. It is the most popular church in Helsinki, attracting about seven million tourists yearly, and during the busiest days of the summer, about 10,000 people visit the church.
The barriers, according to Vicar Auvo Naukkarinen, will remain in place for the time being.
Source: The Finnish Security Security Intelligence Service, Police, MTV