By Arab News
Utrecht’s police chief said a suspect in the deadly tram shooting in the Dutch city on Monday morning had been arrested, after an attack which saw three people killed and at least five others injured.
The man had previous run-ins with law enforcement, the top regional prosecutor said on Monday after his arrest.
At a press conference, Prosecutor Rutger Jeuken confirmed that the Turkish-born man named Gokmen Tanis suspected in the shooting had previously been arrested, without giving further details.
“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 Gokmen Tanis and issued a picture of him. Jeuken said authorities had lowered the threat level in Utrecht from the maximum level five as a result of the arrest.
Dutch security forces had previously been hunting for the 37-year-old man in connection with the incident, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack. The city’s mayor confirmed the death of three people on Monday afternoon.
“At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously,” Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said in a video statement on Twitter. Exact numbers of the injured remained unclear.
“We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack,” he added.
Hours after the attack, dozens of armed police plus canine units later surrounded a building a few hundred metres away.
Police said they believed a red Renault Clio had been carjacked around the time of the shooting, which was later found abandoned in another part of the city.
The Utrecht municipality said it advised “everyone to stay indoors until more is known, new incidents are not excluded,” but this was later withdrawn at around 4:30pm local time. The local hospital said it had set up a crisis centre. Tram traffic in the area was halted.
Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident.
Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökmen Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.
The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.
Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.
There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.
“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Dutch anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”
Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level.
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police.
Police spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved.
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.
A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.
Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.
“Shooting incident… Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”
The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop.