Terror threat in Utrecht downgraded after shooting suspect arrest

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Gokmen Tanis,
Police say Gokmen Tanis, 37, who was born in Turkey, is wanted following the incident

Update: Authorities say several people have been injured and three were killed in a shooting on a tram in Utrecht. After a city-wide manhunt, police have said that a suspect has been detained.

Dutch authorities have downgraded the terror threat level for the province of Utrecht to level 4 following the arrest of the tram shooting suspect, the National coordinator for security and Counterterrorism said on twitter.

Earlier today, officials raised the threat level to a 5 – the highest – for the entire province.

Dutch authorities said they were considering “a possible terrorist motive” for the shooting, which happened around 10:45 a.m. local time (or 5:45 a.m ET) Monday.

The Events:

A gunman opened fire on a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday, killing at least three people and wounding five, said  city Mayor Jan van Zanen.

“At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously,” van Zanen said in a video message on Twitter. He added that a “terror motive” was a plausible reason for the attack. The number of injured was later readjusted to five.

Police then launched a city-wide manhunt for the assailant, who was detained around 6:30 pm local time (17:36 UTC), eight hours after the shooting.

The the terrorism threat level had been raised to the maximum of five in the province of Utrecht.

Utrecht police had released a photo of the suspect earlier on Monday, naming him as Gökmen Tanis, a 37-year-old native of Turkey. They warned the public not to approach him, but to call the authorities if they saw him:

A public prosecutor said that the suspect had previous run-ins with the law.

PM Rutte: ‘We will never give in’

Following the initial reports of the incident, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was “deeply concerned” and had called a crisis meeting.

At a press conference later in the day, Rutte said his thoughts were with the victims and their families who had “their worlds turned upside down”.

“An act of terror is an attack on our civilization, on our tolerant and open society. If this was indeed an act of terror, there can only be one answer, and the answer is the rule of law. Our democracy is stronger than fanaticism and violence. We will never give into intolerance, never.”

Relatives: Shooter motivated by ‘family reasons’

On Monday afternoon, despite the comments from Rutte and van Zanen, reports indicated that Tanis may have been motivated by relationship problems.

“It could also have been a relationship crime,” police spokesman Bernard Jens told Dutch radio broadcaster NOS.

People related to Tanis told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency that the suspect had fired on a relative in the tram for “family reasons.”

They said he shot at a woman on the tram and then attacked people who tried to help the victim.

Utrecht on lockdown

Schools were told to shut their doors, while paramilitary police boosted security at airports and other key buildings. Utrecht City Council warned residents to stay indoors.

Later, police lifted the lockdown.

In neighbouring Germany, meanwhile, police were carrying out checks on trains from the Netherlands and manning highways as well as minor border crossings. “We ramped up our search efforts after we were informed [about the shooting],” a police spokesman told German news agency DPA.

The incident took place in western Utrecht at the 24 October tram stop at about 10:45 a.m. (0945 UTC). Heavily armed officers flooded the area, while emergency services cordoned off streets around the busy intersection and urged the public to steer clear.

 Utrecht at the 24 Oktoberplein tram stop
Witnesses reported seeing a man flee the scene in a car. Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted a witness as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground and several men running from the tram.

 Utrecht at the 24 Oktoberplein tram stop.

 Utrecht at the 24 Oktoberplein tram stop
Utrecht at the 24 Oktoberplein tram stop

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