Gunman Opens Fire on Tram in Netherlands, Three Dead

Utrecht 2
OLIVER JJ LANE

Three people have been killed and nine injured after what was reported to be a single person or “several” people opening fire, onboard an urban tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday morning.

Multiple police and ambulance helicopters responded to the 24th of October Square tram station in the city around 1045 local time after reports of injured people and shooting. Counter-terror police are on the scene and investigating but the Dutch authorities have not yet confirmed the motive of the shooter.

Algemeen Dagblad, a Dutch newspaper with a local office in Utrecht reported that “several” gunmen have attacked passengers onboard the tram before fleeing the scene. Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports while police are aware of one gunman, they are not presently ruling out multiple attackers.

Police have so far released few details about the incident, nor have they given an indication of how many were injured. There has also been no confirmation on the identity, or motivation of the perpetrator, or if there were multiple gunmen.

UPDATE 1930 — Geert Wilders speaks

Arguable the best known Dutch member of Parliament, anti-Islamification MP Geert Wilders has taken to Twitter to ask rhetorically of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the failures of the security system which allowed the suspect to kill.

Noting the alleged killer was already known for violent crime “from manslaughter to theft, destruction and rape” and for extremism, Mr Wilders asked Monday evening how it was he was able to get hold of a weapon and “roam freely” to launch the attack.

Don’t expect an answer any time soon. In other notes online, Mr Wilders sarcastically praised “enriched” multicultural society and said he’d called for a debate in the Dutch parliament as early as tomorrow to discuss the attack and before the forthcoming provincial elections, he said, which are due to happen on Wednesday.

UPDATE 1735 — Suspect arrested

After several raids across Utrecht and increased border checks with neighbouring Germany, while the suspect remained at large, Dutch police now say the main suspect Gökmen Tanis has been arrested. More details will, no doubt, follow.

Policemen and rescuers are at work, on March 18, 2019 in Utrecht, near a tram where a gunman opened fire killing at least three persons and wounding several in what officials said was a possible terrorist incident. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

A member of special police forces patrols, on March 18, 2019 in Utrecht, near a tram where a gunman opened fire killing at least three persons and wounding several in what officials said was a possible terrorist incident. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

UPDATE 1600 — More information on the background of the attacker

Other than a revision to the spelling of Gökman Tanis’s name to Gökmen, more details have been emerging about the chequered past of the alleged killer. Algemeen Dagblad reports Mr Tanis has a “considerable” criminal record and was on trial in Utrecht earlier this month on charges of rape. The Dutch newspaper also reports he was the suspect in a 2013 attempted murder shooting, and more recently has been in contact with police over burglary, shoplifting, and drunk driving.

Britain’s BBC reports claims made about Tanis by a Turkish businessman, who spoke to the broadcaster’s Turkish-language service. The businessman, who also lives in Utrecht, said Tanis had fought in Chechnya and was later arrested for his links to the Islamic State. This claim has not been substantiated.

In more positive developments, the number of injuries has now been revised down to five from nine.

Officers keep surveillance at the entrance of a station in Rotterdam, on March 18, 2019 after the attack in Utrecht. – Three people were killed and nine injured in a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the mayor said on March 18, adding that authorities were working on the basis of it being a terror attack. “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. (Photo by Koen van Weel / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

Policemen stand guard on a country road in Kleve, western Germany, close to the Dutch border, on March 18, 2019, following a shooting in the nearby Netherlands. – Dutch police launched a huge manhunt for a gunman who killed three people and wounded nine others in a suspected terror attack inside a tram in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. (Photo by Guido SCHULMANN / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

UPDATE 1400 — Three dead

The mayor of Utrecht has made a statement, revealing that there have been three fatalities and nine further wounded people in the Utrecht shooting, which is increasingly being treated as a terror attack. On that matter, speaking at a press conference Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “If This is a terrorist act, then there is only one answer: we will not depart for intolerance.” Never.”

UPDATE 1330 — Turkish born male named as a suspect in the shooting

Despite earlier reports of multiple shooters, Dutch police now speak of one suspect, a 37-year-old Turkish origin male named as Gökman Tanis. While officers in the city have surrounded a particular building in the city, as that operation was ongoing the official account shared a security camera image of a male standing on a tram. Police told the public not to approach him if spotted but to telephone with any information, strongly implying that police have not yet successfully pinned the alleged assailant down.

 

Special Police forces, police and medical experts work near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, where a shooting took place on March 18, 2019. – A gunman opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on March 18, 2019, killing at least one person and wounding several in what officials said was a possible terrorist incident. (Photo by Ricardo Smit / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read RICARDO SMIT/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE 1300 — Police raid addresses across Utrecht 

The tram shooter remains on the run, and Dutch police have now advised locals in Utrecht to stay indoors given the possibility of a follow-up attack. Heavily-armed police have been seen raiding several addresses across the city, but there has been no further information about the identity of the attacker.

It is still not known how many people were injured in the attack, but Dutch media reports that all those who need medical treatment have now reached hospital.

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A body lying on the ground is covered near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. – A gunman who opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on March 18, injuring several people, is on the run, police said. Police only spoke of one gunman but did not rule out the possibility there might be others, the ANP news agency quoted police as saying. (Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Police forces and emergency services stand at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. – Several people were wounded in a shooting on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on March 18, police said, with local media reporting counter-terrorism police at the scene. “A shooting occurred on the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht… Multiple people have been injured. The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter,” Utrecht police said on Twitter. (Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo credit should read ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE 1145 — Local media reports one fatality

De Telegraaf reports witness testimony that one body at the scene of the shooting has been covered with a blanket, indicating there was at least one fatality in Utrecht this morning. Comprehensive information about the situation is yet to be forthcoming from police, but the Dutch government has put the city on the highest state of security alert, at least until this evening, as the perpetrator is believed to still be at large.

The Dutch government is holding a crisis meeting Monday in the wake of the possible terror attack, cancelling other meetings. Dutch journalists report there is an unusually high level of armed security patrolling outside the parliament building, which officers confirmed was in response to the Utrecht event.

Police forces and emergency services stand at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. – Several people were wounded in a shooting on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on March 18, police said, with local media reporting counter-terrorism police at the scene. “A shooting occurred on the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht… Multiple people have been injured. The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter,” Utrecht police said on Twitter. (Photo by Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

This story is developing and edits are taking place in real time

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