WORLD Dutch police arrest suspect after three shot dead on tram

WORLD

Dutch police arrest suspect after three shot dead on tram

AFP

05:49, March 19, 2019

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Armed police and emergency services swarmed the scene after the shooting in the city of Utrecht, March 18, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Dutch police on Monday arrested a Turkish-born suspect over a shooting on a tram in Utrecht that left three people dead in what officials said was a possible terror attack.

Police had earlier launched a huge manhunt for Gokmen Tanis, 37, issuing a picture of the suspected gunman and warning the public not to approach him following the attack, in which five other people were wounded.

Mosques and schools were closed across the Netherlands' fourth-largest city following the bloodshed, before heavily armed officers surrounded a building and arrested him.

Dutch authorities said they were still investigating a likely terrorist motive for the shooting but Prime Minister Mark Rutte said they "cannot exclude" other motives, including a family dispute.

"We have just heard that the suspect we are looking for has been arrested," Utrecht police chief Rob van Bree told a dramatic press conference seconds after being handed a piece of paper with news of the arrest.

The city's mayor Jan van Zanen told the same news conference it was a "black day for Utrecht", while prosecution officer Rutger Jeuken said that "it looks like what we are dealing with is a terrorist motive."

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A body covered in a white sheet was seen near the tram after the shooting, March 18, 2019. (Photo: AP)

- 'Questions and rumours' -

The drama began when gunfire broke out on a tram near the 24 Oktoberplein square, sending people fleeing from the tram and triggering a huge police response.

One witness told broadcaster NOS they saw an injured woman running out of the tram with blood on her hands and clothes who then fell to the ground.

"I brought her into my car and helped her. When the police arrived, she was unconscious," the witness, who was not named, told the broadcaster.

A body covered in a white sheet could later be seen lying on the tram tracks.

Police then launched a massive manhunt during which the suspected gunman is believed to have carjacked a Renault Clio before being arrested about seven hours later, around three kilometres (two miles) from the attack site.

Security forces were on high alert at airports and other government buildings following the attack, which came just days after 50 people were killed at mosques in New Zealand in a rampage by an alleged white supremacist.

Dutch national counter-terrorism chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said authorities had lowered the terror threat in Utrecht one notch from the top level after "the arrest of the main suspect for the shooting".


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