Amsterdam, March 18: Turkey-born gunman Gökman Tanis has been arrested hours after he allegedly killed 3 people and injured 5 others on a Dutch tram in the central city of Utrecht. The 37-year-old has been taken into custody, and will be interrogated to ascertain the reason behind the fatal shooting.
Even as the country's counter-terrorism coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg went on record to state that the case prima facie appears to be linked to terrorism, reports citing official sources now claim that it was apparently a family dispute. Utrecht Shooting Incident: As it Happened.
Tanis, reported by npr.org, appeared earlier this month before a Dutch court in a 2017 rape case, listing him as an accused. The attack on the tram, the report added, could be linked to the same sexual assault case, as he allegedly targeted his kin on the tram near 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht.
Update Issued by Utrecht Police:
The suspect of the shooting at the #24oktoberplein was arrested at the Oudenoord in Utrecht. Earlier the police published information and a photo of this same person.
— Politie Utrecht (@PolitieUtrecht) March 18, 2019
The shooting took place at 10.45 a.m. in 24 Oktoberplein, a busy junction underneath a highway bridge. Police said they had found a red Renault Clio car they had been looking for in connection to the attack.
The Dutch counter-terrorism and security unit NCTV was involved in the investigation.
Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, who heads the counter-terrorism unit, said the suspected shooter had fled the scene and remained a fugitive, adding that the terror threat level in the province of Utrecht, in central Netherlands, had been raised to five, the highest possible category, meaning a terrorist attack was "expected imminently".
Netherlands broadcaster NOS said one of its reporters had seen a person lying immobile under a white sheet, an image later confirmed by television footage.
An eyewitness told NOS that an injured woman had come running out of the tram with blood covering her hands and on her clothes.
"I brought her into my car and helped her," the witness said. "When the police arrived, she was unconscious."
Television footage showed emergency services treating an injured person next to a car as a medical helicopter landed nearby.
The alert level, which was activated for a period of at least 18 hours, applied only to the Utrecht province, Aalbersberg said.
Armed police were deployed to the scene and security presence was boosted at the train stations and airports across the country.
Van Zanen said it was "a horrible and major incident in which victims have fallen".
"I am in close contact with the police and the public prosecutor. An initial assessment has already been undertaken. The assessment can confirm that the police and public prosecutor are currently looking for the person responsible."
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cancelled a government meeting in light of the events, which he described as a "worrying situation".
Police said witnesses had seen a man take a weapon out and start shooting continually and at random before fleeing the scene.
Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands located just 40 km to the southeast of the capital Amsterdam.
(With IANS inputs)