Three dead in Utrecht shooting, suspect in custody | News | DW | 18.03.2019
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Three dead in Utrecht shooting, suspect in custody

Authorities say several people have been injured and three were killed in a shooting on a tram in Utrecht. After a city-wide manhunt, police have said that a suspect has been detained.

A gunman opened fire on a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday, killing at least three people and wounding five, said city Mayor Jan van Zanen.

"We sympathize with those close to the victims, the injured and all the people who were at the shooting incident this morning. We must embrace each other and support those who grieve," van Zanen said.

Police then launched a city-wide manhunt for the assailant, who was detained around 6:30 pm local time (17:36 UTC), eight hours after the shooting.

Utrecht police had released a photo of the suspect earlier on Monday, naming him as Gökmen Tanis, a 37-year-old native of Turkey. 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it "strongly" condemned the attack, which came six months after the two countries re-appointed ambassadors following a diplomatic spat.

The terrorism threat level had been raised to the maximum of five in the province of Utrecht, but dropped one notch to four after the arrest.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus urged the public to cease speculation about Tanis' motives.

"It is important that now the independent investigation will thoroughly go through the evidence," Grapperhaus said.

"Yes, the suspect was known within the justice department. He had a criminal record. That is indeed what we know. I can give no more details." 

A map of Utrecht

PM Rutte: 'the Netherlands feels your deep pain'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued a statement on Monday evening, speaking to the victims and their loved ones, saying "the Netherlands feels your deep pain."

"The motives for the attack are still unclear. For now, we are overcome by a sense of horror and disbelief at the terrible events of today."

He added his appreciation for the first responders, the police, and the work of the justice and defense departments. 

Relatives: Shooter motivated by 'family reasons'

On Monday afternoon, despite earlier comments from authorities that they were probing the possibility of terrorism, relatives indicated that Tanis may have been motivated by relationship problems.

"It could also have been a relationship crime," police spokesman Bernard Jens told Dutch radio broadcaster NOS.

People related to the suspect told Turkey's Anadolu news agency that he had fired on a relative in the tram for "family reasons."

They said he shot at a woman on the tram and then attacked people who tried to help the victim.

Utrecht on lockdown

Schools were told to shut their doors, while paramilitary police boosted security at airports and other key buildings. Utrecht City Council warned residents to stay inside.

Later, police lifted the lockdown.

In neighboring Germany, meanwhile, police carried out checks on trains from the Netherlands and manning highways as well as minor border crossings. "We ramped up our search efforts after we were informed [about the shooting]," a police spokesman told German news agency DPA.

The incident took place in western Utrecht at the 24 Oktoberplein tram stop at about 10:45 a.m. (0945 UTC). Heavily armed officers flooded the area, while emergency services cordoned off streets around the busy intersection and urged the public to steer clear.

Witnesses reported seeing a man flee the scene in a car. Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted a witness as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground and several men running from the tram.   

Utrecht, the Netherlands' fourth-largest city, has a large student population and is known for its picturesque canals.

Watch video 00:37

Tram shooting in Utrecht

nm, es/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa) 

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