Three dead in possible terrorist attack in Utrecht

Police said they were looking for a 37-year-old man of Turkish origin.
Monday 18/03/2019
Special task forces of the police patrol in Trumanlaan (Truman avenue) in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 as the police searches the attacker of a tram. (AFP)
Special task forces of the police patrol in Trumanlaan (Truman avenue) in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 as the police searches the attacker of a tram. (AFP)

Three people were killed and nine injured in a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the mayor said Monday, adding that authorities were working on the basis of it being a terrorist 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.

"We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had earlier said there were "possible deaths" and that a terrorist motive was "not excluded."

Police said they were looking for a 37-year-old man of Turkish origin identified as Gokmen Tanis. 

Police, including heavily armed officers, flooded the area after the shooting Monday morning on a tram at a busy traffic intersection in a residential neighbourhood. 

Utrecht police said trauma helicopters were sent to the scene and appealed to the public to stay away. Heavily armed anti-terror officers gathered in front of an apartment block close to the scene.

"Our nation was hit by an attack in Utrecht," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. He said that "a terror motive is not excluded." 

Rutte said that, throughout the country, "there is a mix of disbelief and disgust."   

"If it is a terror attack then we have only one answer: our nation, democracy must be stronger that fanaticism and violence," he added.

Police spokesman Bernhard Jens said one possibility "is that the person fled by car." He did not rule out the possibility that more than one shooter was involved.

The Netherlands' anti-terror coordinator raised the threat alert to its highest level around Utrecht, a city of nearly 350,000 people. Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said the "threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province."

(AFP, Reuters)