Dutch police are on the hunt for 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis, in connection with a shooting incident on a tram. Picture: Police Utrecht via AP
Dutch police are on the hunt for 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis, in connection with a shooting incident on a tram. Picture: Police Utrecht via AP

Police arrest deadly tram shooting suspect

DUTCH police last night arrested the suspect in a shooting on a tram in the city of Utrecht in which three people were killed and five injured, a police chief said.

"We have just been informed that the suspect has been arrested," Utrecht police chief Rob van Bree told a news conference.

Police had earlier said they were searching for Turkish-born suspect Gökman Tanis, 37, and issued a picture of him.

Police showed the picture of a bearded man sitting on public transport and dressed in a dark blue top with a hood tucked in his neck. Police identified him as Gökman Tanis.

Dutch police are seaching for this man, Gokmen Tanis. Picture: Police Utrecht via AP
Dutch police are seaching for this man, Gokmen Tanis. Picture: Police Utrecht via AP

 

It was the first image distributed of someone linked to the shooting.

Police had asked citizens to call authorities with any information and to report any suspicious situation via toll free and emergency numbers.

Earlier, police surrounded a building where the suspected gunman "with a possible terror motive" was said to be holed up.

The gunman, who may not have been acting alone, opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht, killing at least three people and injuring five others.

Police raised the terror alert in Utrecht to its maximum level and put local schools into lockdown as gunshots were reported in several areas of the university town, the country's fourth largest, which is located about 45 minutes' drive south of the capital Amsterdam.

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the head of the Dutch counter-terrorism agency, said in a statement that the "threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province," referring to the highest level, adding that the shooting "appears to be a terrorist attack".

Rescue workers install a screen on the spot where a body was covered with a white blanket following a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands on Monday. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Rescue workers install a screen on the spot where a body was covered with a white blanket following a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands on Monday. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

There was carnage on a morning tram when the gunman opened fire at 10.45am local time (8.45pm Monday night AEDST).

Police said "multiple people'' were injured when the gunman apparently fired indiscriminately into the commuters.

 

A map of Utrecht in the Netherlands shows the location of the shooting, which police are describing as a terror attack. Picture: Supplied/BBC
A map of Utrecht in the Netherlands shows the location of the shooting, which police are describing as a terror attack. Picture: Supplied/BBC

"Investigation into shooting incident #24oktoberplein #Utrecht is underway,'' Utrecht police tweeted.

"We also take into account a possible terrorist motive.''

The incident happened at the 24 October Square tram stop.

The police issued social media appeals asking people to clear the area to allow emergency services vehicles to access the scene.

"The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter.''

Three trauma helicopters at the scene, as is a police anti-terrorism unit.

The square where the shooting occurred is named for the United Nations, which was signed into existence on October 24, 1945.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called a crisis meeting, and security was boosted across the Netherlands including in Amsterdam and The Hague, and as far afield as the German border.

Prime Minister Rutte said the incident, just days ahead of local elections, was "deeply disturbing" and police stepped up security at mosques and airports.

Mosques in the city were asked to shut their doors, and public transport was shut down.

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

There was no immediate indication of any link between the two events.

 

A body is covered with a blanket next to a tram following a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong
A body is covered with a blanket next to a tram following a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

 

Police, including heavily armed officers, flooded the area in Utrecht after the shooting at a busy traffic intersection in a residential neighbourhood.

They later erected a white tent over an area where a body appeared to be lying next to the tram.

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

Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

 

"We cannot exclude, even stronger, we assume a terror motive. Likely there is one attacker, but there could be more," Mr Jan van Zanen, Utrecht mayor, said.

"Our nation was hit by an attack in Utrecht," Prime Minister Rutte said. "A terror motive is not excluded." Mr Rutte said that, throughout the country, "there is a mix of disbelief and disgust."

 

Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday, March 18, 2019. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday, March 18, 2019. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

 

"If it is a terror attack then we have only one answer: our nation, democracy must be stronger that fanaticism and violence," he added.

Police spokesman Bernhard Jens said one possibility "is that the person fled by car."

 

A resident peers from a window as Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands. The gunman has been caught. Picture: AP Photo
A resident peers from a window as Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands. The gunman has been caught. Picture: AP Photo

 

He did not rule out the possibility that more than one shooter was involved.

Dutch political parties halted campaigning ahead of provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday that will also determine the makeup of the Dutch parliament's upper house.

 

The father of the suspect says his son should be punished if he's to blame.

Mehmet Tanis, the father of Gökman Tanis, and who lives in Turkey's central Kayseri province, told the private Demiroren news agency that he hadn't spoken to his son in 11 years.

He says "if he did it, he should pay the penalty."

Separately, Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said the suspect's relatives believe he shot at someone close to the family due to "family issues."

Prime Minister Rutte said that some of those wounded in the attack are "still in critical condition."

"Three people are dead, three people are fighting for their lives," he said. "The world shares our grief."

Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus, speaking at the same press conference, said the attacker in the deadly tram shooting "was known" to authorities and said the suspect had a criminal record.


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