Saturday 19 October 2019

Police arrest suspect after three killed by tram gunman

Crime scene: Police inspect the Utrecht tram on which three people were shot dead
Crime scene: Police inspect the Utrecht tram on which three people were shot dead

Joan Clements

Dutch police have arrested a 37-year-old man suspected of shooting three people dead and wounding five others in a possible terror attack on a tram.

Gokmen Tanis, the Turkish-born suspect, had been on the run since yesterday morning, forcing vast parts of Utrecht city - including mosques, schools and businesses - into lockdown.

Suspect: A photo of the man arrested by police, Gokmen Tanis, taken from tram CCTV
Suspect: A photo of the man arrested by police, Gokmen Tanis, taken from tram CCTV

Although the local terror threat level was set to a maximum of five, as the day progressed increasing evidence on social and international media suggested the attack could have been personally motivated.

During the eight-hour manhunt, residents were advised to stay indoors and police were sent to secure mosques across the Netherlands.

In an unusual move, police had named and released photographs of Mr Tanis, a local resident born in Turkey, who was thought to have unleashed a volley of shots on a tram in a quiet, residential area yesterday morning before fleeing in a stolen, red Renault Clio car.

Rutger Jeuken, the local chief public prosecutor, said that early indications suggested a terror attack.

"The first interpretation of what happened according to witness statements and the evidence we have found suggest a terrorist motive, although we cannot rule out other motives," he said at a press conference.

A prosecutor had earlier suggested the killer could have been motived by "family reasons" and Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency, quoting relatives, said he had fired at a relative on the tram and had then shot at others who tried to help her.

Mr Tanis had reportedly been sentenced for an attempted killing in 2013 after he fired shots towards an apartment building. He was in court two weeks ago accused of a rape in 2017, and had previously been arrested for attempted vehicle theft, driving under the influence of intoxicants and spitting at police.

The shooting took place at the 24 Oktoberplein area, and eyewitnesses said that after shouts of "shooter", people fled from the tram.

The area was quickly shut off by police, three trauma helicopters were called, and armed police and anti-terror forces flooded the streets.

Greet Oldenlam (65) said that she saw paramedics carry a body covered with a bloodstained sheet from the tram.

"I can't believe this happened in my city," she said. "[It] seems nowhere is safe now. Those poor people attacked in the tram on a quiet Monday."

Daan Molenaar, a witness on the tram, told Dutch broadcaster NOS: "I saw someone lying behind the tram and thought she had been ridden over. People came out of cars running towards her. Then a shooter came running with a pistol up, and heard people shouting 'shooter!' I ran."

As schools and businesses closed their doors, residents stood outside their homes, looking up dumbfounded as helicopters and drones flew over the area. Later, armed police surrounded a first-floor apartment in the nearby street of Trumanlaan and the red car was discovered on a nearby road with its doors open and engine running.

In a press conference yesterday evening, police announced that a second suspect had also been arrested during the day.

"Today is a black day for our city," said mayor Jan van Zanen. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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