Gunman arrested as death toll rises from Netherlands tram shooting

The gunman who killed three people and wounded at least nine others on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht has been arrested, as police investigate any terror links.

The city was put into lockdown following the shooting, shortly after the morning rush hour.

Police said the suspect, 37-year-old Turkish man Gokmen Tanis, had been taken into custody after an hours-long manhunt and had earlier run-ins with authorities in the Netherlands.

But hours after the shooting, the gunman’s motive remained unclear. A prosecutor said it could be for “family reasons”, while Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said he had fired at a relative on the tram and had then shot at others who tried to help her.

Rescue workers install a screen on the spot where a human shape was seen under a white blanket following a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands. Source: AP
Gokmen Tanis, 37, has been arrested in connection with the shooting. Source: AP

The Turkish intelligence agency said it is investigating whether the attack was personally motivated or an act of terrorism, President Tayyip Erdogan said.

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

The threat level was reduced by one notch to where it had been after the suspect was arrested, the National Counter-Terrorism Agency said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks immediately after 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.

“Our country has today been shocked by an attack in Utrecht… A terrorist motive cannot be excluded,” Rutte said.

“The first reports have led to disbelief and disgust. Innocent people have been struck by violence.”

Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house with a sniffer dog equipped with a camera after the shooting. Source: AP
Dutch counter terrorism stand guard as others raid a house in connection with the shooting. Source: AP

The mayor of Utrecht, Jan van Zanen, said three people had been killed and five injured, three of them critically.

The shooting took place in Kanaleneiland, a quiet residential district on the outskirts of Utrecht with a large immigrant population.

“It’s frightening that something like this can happen so close to home,” said Omar Rahhou, who said his parents lived on a street cordoned off by police. “These things normally happen far away but this brings it very close, awful.”

Witness Daan Molenaar, who said he had been sitting at the front of the tram when the shooting started, told national broadcaster NOS he did not believe it was a terrorist attack.

Forensic investigators are seen in the building where the main suspect of the shooting has been arrested. Source: Reuters

“The first thing I thought was, this is some kind of revenge or something, or somebody who’s really mad and grabbed a pistol,” he said.

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 considered rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.

– with Reuters.

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