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Monday 14 October 2019

Man held in terror probe after three killed in shooting on Dutch tram

The shooting took place at a busy intersection in a residential neighbourhood in Utrecht.

Emergency workers at the scene (Peter Dejong/AP)
Emergency workers at the scene (Peter Dejong/AP)

By Aleksandar Furtula and Mike Corder, Associated Press

A gunman has killed three people and wounded five on a tram in what authorities said may have been a terror attack, and a suspect was seized after a manhunt that convulsed the Dutch city of Utrecht.

Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said the attacker — identified as Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis, 37 — “was known” to authorities and had a criminal record, but would not elaborate.

“If it had terror motives, that is being investigated. But it was very serious. The world shares our grief,” prime minister Mark Rutte said.

The attack came three days after 50 people were killed when an immigrant-hating white supremacist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers.

Dutch authorities reduced the threat level in the city back to four out of five following the arrest, which came after a manhunt involving heavily armed officers with dogs.

During the hunt, police released a photo of a bearded Tanis on a tram in a blue hooded top.

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Dutch counter-terrorism police (Peter Dejong/AP)

“We cannot exclude – even stronger, we assume – a terror motive. Likely there is one attacker, but there could be more,” Utrecht mayor Jan van Zanen said as police searched for the suspect.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Dutch military police tightened security at airports and key buildings in the country, and Mr Rutte said: “If it is a terror attack, then we have only one answer: Our nation, democracy, must be stronger than fanaticism and violence.”

The shooting took place at a busy intersection in a residential neighbourhood. Police erected a white tent over an area where a body appeared to be lying next to the tram.

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(PA Graphics)

Anti-terror officers gathered in front of an apartment building close to the scene. A dog wearing a vest with a camera mounted on it was also seen outside the building.

Local media said Tanis had been charged several times over recent years with offences ranging from attempted manslaughter to petty crime in and around Utrecht. Two weeks ago he was in court on charges of raping a woman in 2017, news reports said.

The Netherlands’ anti-terror co-ordinator, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, raised the threat alert to its highest level, five, around Utrecht, a city of nearly 350,000, until Tanis was captured.

Political parties halted campaigning ahead of provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday that will also determine the make-up of parliament’s upper house.

In neighbouring Germany, police said they had stepped up surveillance of the Dutch border, watching not only major highways but also minor crossings and train routes.

German authorities said they were initially told to look out for a red Renault Clio but were later informed it had been found abandoned in Utrecht.

PA Media

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