19 Mar 2019

Dutch tram shooting: Police arrest man

6:46 am on 19 March 2019

Police have arrested a man following a shooting on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht in which three people were killed, Dutch public broadcaster NOS says.

Police officer and forensic investigators near  near a tram in Utrecht where a gunman opened fire killing three people.

A policeman and forensic investigators near a tram in Utrecht where a gunman opened fire killing three people. Photo: AFP

Five others were injured in the incident, which the authorities say appears to be a terrorist attack.

Police had been looking for a 37-year-old Turkish man named as Gokmen Tanis and had warned people not to approach him.

Schools have closed and security has been increased while counter-terrorism police worked to find the gunman.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the country had been "jolted by an attack", which he described as "deeply disturbing".

"We cannot exclude a terrorist motive," Dutch anti-terrorism co-ordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference on Monday.

The tram attack happened at about 10.45am. One witness told local media that "a man started shooting wildly".

Another witness told Dutch public broadcaster NOS that he had helped an injured woman after the tram came to a stop.

"I looked behind me and saw someone lying there behind the tram," he said. "People got out of their cars... and they started to lift her up.

"I helped to pull her out and then I saw a gunman run towards us, with his gun raised," he said. "I heard people yell 'Shooter! Shooter!' and I started to run."

Counter-terrorism police earlier surrounded a house near the 24 Oktoberplein junction, where the tram attack took place.

A local businessman told BBC Turkish that the suspect had previously fought in Russia's republic of Chechnya.

Utrecht Police released an image of Gokmen Tanis .

Utrecht Police released this image they said was of Gokmen Tanis Photo: AFP / Utrecht Police

Jihadist groups, including those aligned with the Islamic State (IS) group, have long operated in the region.

Turkey's top regional prosecutor said the suspect had had previous run-ins with law enforcement.

At a press conference, Prosecutor Rutger Jeuken confirmed that the Turkish-born man had previously been arrested

Meanwhile, the threat level has been temporarily raised to its highest point in the province of Utrecht and extended until 9pm.

Utrecht University has closed all of its buildings and trains are not allowed to run into the city's central station.

Paramilitary police have been sent to airports and mosques amid increased security concerns.

Utrecht, the Netherlands' fourth largest city, has a population of about 340,000.

Crime levels are low and gun killings are rare, which is the case for much of the country.

- BBC / Reuters