Security reviewed after gunman breaks into Dutch TV station
Quick-thinking guard leads to him to studio full of security cameras and police pounce quickly
The moment the gunman is arrested in the studio for disrupting the evening news, reportedly demanding airtime. Photograph: AFP Photo/ANP/NOS
Police arrest the gunman in a studio´: they could be heard shouting: “Drop it! Drop It! Get on your knees!” The youth replies: “I’ve dropped it! It’s dropped!” He was then handcuffed and taken away for questioning. Photograph: AFP Photo/ANP/NOS
Security has been stepped up in Hilversum, the home of Dutch broadcasting, after a 19-year-old man carrying a fake gun forced his way into national news channel, NOS, on Thursday evening, causing it to cancel its main evening news bulletin, which is usually watched by 2.3 million people.
The teenager, identified only as “Tarik Z”, demanded 10 minutes of airtime. He carried a letter claiming he was a member of “a hackers’ collective” and that eight bombs containing radioactive material had been stashed around The Netherlands.
There was outrage last night that, as one commentator put it, “just weeks after the bloody events at Charlie Hebdo, this man could gain access relatively easily to a national newsroom making it painfully clear that there’s plenty wrong with the security of news organisations”.
That security concern was underlined by the fact that in the same Media Park, during the 2002 general election, politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated. He was shot in the head, neck and chest at close range in the car park outside a radio studio.
Richard Franken, a director of Trigion, the security firm responsible for the Media Park, said: “Every day, thousands of employees and guests visit the Media Park. It will never be 100 per cent safe, but at the same time we don’t want to turn it into Fort Knox. We have to find a balance.”
In fact, it was the quick thinking of a security guard first confronted by the teenager – dressed unobtrusively in a dark suit, white shirt and tie – who contained the threat relatively quickly and without injury.
The attacker, carrying what appeared to be a handgun, demanded to be taken to the main evening-news studio, but instead the guard led him through the building to an unused but fully equipped daytime television studio where he could be seen by police on remote-control cameras.
The building was evacuated and those cameras recorded the police as they stormed the studio, shouting: “Drop it! Drop It! Get on your knees!”
The youth replies: “I’ve dropped it! It’s dropped!” He was then handcuffed and taken away for questioning.
Justice minister Ivo Opstelten said it was clear the man – a first-year student of molecular science and technology at Delft University of Technology, not far from his home in Pijnacker – had acted alone and had no links to any terrorist organisation.
His motive remains a mystery. Friends describe him as “intelligent” and “quiet” but “not a loner”.
There have though been some suggestions in the media that he is “mentally disturbed” and that there was never any substance to his warnings of cyberattacks or hidden bombs.
Although there is no suggestion that the student has links to radical Muslim militants, it is that fear of an Islamist attack that has The Netherlands on edge. The terror threat is at its second-highest level, of “substantial”.
On Wednesday, the railway station in the university town of Leiden was evacuated and services between Amsterdam and The Hague were disrupted all day when a suspect package was discovered. It turned out to be a camera wrapped in plastic ready to be installed by an advertising agency, complete with permit.
There are strong jihadist links between The Netherlands and Syria – and a number of fighters have returned.
Two teenagers, an 18-year-old from Amsterdam and a 19-year-old from Maastricht, have been killed since the start of December, bringing the death toll to 21. As one parent on a radio phone-in observed, about the size of a small school class.