Utrecht shooting: ‘Chief suspect’ arrested, say police

Motive remains unclear after at least three killed, nine wounded in shooting

Emergency services flood Utrecht's 24 Oktoberplein junction following a shooting on a tram. Source: Newsflare

 

Dutch police arrested a man of Turkish origin suspected of involvement in a shooting on a tram in Utrecht on Monday that killed three people and wounded nine, city authorities said.

The suspect was identified by police as 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis.

“The chief suspect has been arrested,” the city of Utrecht said in a tweet.

Dutch authorities had raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure and also at mosques.

Dutch police are looking for Gokman Tanis over a shooting on a tram in Utrecht that left one dead and several injured. Photograph: Utrecht Police/AFP/Getty Images
Dutch police were looking for Gokman Tanis over a shooting on a tram in Utrecht that left one dead and several injured. Photograph: Utrecht Police/AFP/Getty Images

Prime minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident, which came three days after a lone gunman killed 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

Dutch police had issued a statement asking members of the public to “watch out for 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis.”

They also issued an image of the man and warned the public not to approach him. They gave no further details.

Utrecht police tweet

The mayor of Utrecht, Jan van Zanen, said three people had been killed and nine injured, three of them seriously, in the tram incident.

“Our country today has been jolted by an attack in Utrecht,” the prime minister said in a statement. “Police and prosecutors are looking into what exactly happened. What’s known now is that there was shooting at people sitting in a tram in Utrecht.”

Mr Rutte did not repeat earlier suggestions that the shooting may have had a terrorist motive.

The Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, citing a witness, said the gunman had targeted one woman on the tram and then shot other people who had tried to help her.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said the gunman fired at a relative on the tram over “family reasons”, citing other relatives. The Anadolu report said the gunman then shot at people who tried to help.

Dutch television showed counter-terrorism units surrounding a house in Utrecht, but no confirmation was given as to whether the gunman was inside.

Counter-terrorism agency head Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said the shooting “appears to be a terrorist attack”.

The National Counter-Terrorism Agency “reduced the threat level for the province of Utrecht to level 4. Motive is the arrest of the main suspect of the shooting,” it said on Monday evening.

Members of the emergency service at the scene where a shooting took place at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Photograph: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA
Members of the emergency service at the scene where a shooting took place at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Photograph: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA

Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted a witness as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground amid some kind of confrontation and several men running away from the scene.

A reporter for Dutch broadcaster NOS said a white sheet had been placed over a body near the tram where the shooting had taken place.

Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city with a population of around 340,000, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population. Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands. – Reuters