ESPOO, FINLAND - A lone gunman killed four people in a rampage in a Finnish shopping mall Thursday and also murdered his former girlfriend before being found dead himself, police said.
The man, named as Ibrahim Shkupolli, 43, opened fire in the suburban Helsinki mall where his ex-partner reportedly worked, shooting dead three men and a woman before fleeing, detectives told a press conference.
Authorities in Serbia said Shkupolli was a Kosovo Albanian but that he was not known to police there.
The body of his former partner, whom he had been barred by a court from approaching, was discovered later in a house on the outskirts of the capital.
Police said they were believed the incident, the latest in a series of shooting sprees that have sent shockwaves through the Nordic country, was triggered by a domestic dispute.
Ambulances rushed to the scene in the suburb of Espoo after shooting erupted in the mall filled with New Year's Eve shoppers at around 10:20 am (0820 GMT).
Security services evacuated the shopping centre and then cordoned off the area while public transport services were rerouted.
After an extensive search of the mall proved fruitless, officers issued a photograph of Shkupolli and called on the public to help find him.
Media reports said the suspect opened fire with a 9 mm handgun, sending shoppers fleeing.
'Everyone was in a panic. They didn't know what was happening and some were crying,' one witness told radio station Yle.
Shkupolli was born in Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo. Initial inquiries appeared to indicate that he did not have a criminal record in Serbia, according to Serbian Interior Ministry's spokeswoman Suzana Vasiljevic.
The incident was the third major shooting in the past two years in Finland, where gun crime has become a major issue and gun ownership is widespread.
Eleven people were killed in September 2008 when a 22-year-old gunman burst into a school classroom, shooting dead eight female students and one male classmate as well as a male teacher, before turning the gun on himself.
An 18-year-old student also shot six students, a headmistress and a nurse before killing himself in a school in Jokela, north of Helsinki in November 2007.
Both of the shooters had easily acquired a license for their handguns.
The gunman behind the 2008 rampage, Matti Juhani Saari, had been questioned by police just a day before the massacre about a video posted on YouTube showing him shooting his weapon at a firing range.
However, they deemed he was not enough of a threat to withdraw his gun licence.