A gunman yesterday opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht, killing three people and wounding several others in what officials said was a possible terrorist attack.
Armed counterterrorism police launched a huge manhunt for the attacker, urging local residents in one of the Netherlands’ biggest cities to stay indoors in case of further incidents.
Police released a picture of the Turkish-born suspect, naming him as 37-year-old Gokman Tanis, and warning people not to approach him.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the incident, just days ahead of local elections, was “deeply disturbing” and police stepped up security at mosques and airports.
A body covered in a sheet could be seen on the tracks in Utrecht as armed police and emergency services swarmed around the scene, while helicopters hovered overhead.
“We cannot exclude a terrorist motive,” the head of the Dutch national counterterrorism service, Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a brief news conference before rushing off for a crisis meeting.
There had been shooting at “several locations,” he said, but did not give further details.
“A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman,” he said.
The terror alert level in Utrecht was raised to maximum level five, he added.
Police later surrounded a building a few hundred meters away, a reporter at the scene said, but it was not clear if the gunman was inside.
Police in Utrecht said the shooting took place on a tram in the 24 Oktoberplein area of the city and that “a possible terrorist motive is part of the investigation.”
“Multiple people have been injured. The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter... Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help,” they said.
One witness told NOS News they had seen an injured person 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.
The Utrecht municipality said it advised “everyone to stay indoors until more is known. New incidents are not excluded.”
The local hospital said it had set up a crisis center.
Local media showed photographs of masked, armed police and emergency vehicles surrounding a tram that had stopped near a road bridge.
The Dutch military police said they were on “high alert” and were boosting security at the airports and at other vital buildings in the Netherlands.
All major political parties announced that they were suspending campaigning ahead of tomorrow’s local elections, which will determine the make-up of the Dutch senate.
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