The shooting took place at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality, owned by the Seinäjoki Municipal Federation of Education. The facilities and campus were shared between the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and the Seinäjoki Vocational Education Centre - Sedu. Saari was a second-year student in a Bachelor of Hospitality Management degree programme.
The incident was the second school shooting in less than a year in Finland, the other being the Jokela school shooting in November 2007, in which nine people including the gunman were killed. Before that, only one other school shooting had taken place in the country's history, in Rauma in 1989, leaving two people dead.
Ahtisaari was a UNSpecial Envoy at the Kosovo status process negotiations, aimed at resolving a long-running dispute in Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. In October 2008 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts". The Nobel statement said that Ahtisaari has played a prominent role in resolving many conflicts in Namibia, Indonesia, Kosovo and Iraq, among other areas.