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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 27 January 2022

Utrecht shooting: Dutch police 'seriously' investigating terror motive after letter found

Three people died and five people were injured in the incident yesterday.

Dutch counter terrorism police leave after searching a house following the shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands
Dutch counter terrorism police leave after searching a house following the shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands
Image: Peter Dejong via PA Images

POLICE IN THE Netherlands are “seriously” investigating a terrorist motive for yesterday’s Utrecht tram attack because of evidence including a letter found in the suspected gunman’s getaway car. 

The incident occurred on a tram at 24 Octoberplein, and the alarm was raised at 10.45am local time (9.45am Irish time). 

Three people died and five people were injured in the incident. Those who died are a 19-year-old woman from Vianen, south of Utrecht, and two men aged 28 and 49 from Utrecht itself. 

A suspect was detained yesterday evening after an eight-hour manhunt.

Police are now questioning Turkish-born suspect Gokmen Tanis (37) and two other men in relation to the attack. 

“So far, a terrorist motive is seriously being taken into account. This is based on a letter found in the getaway car among other things and the nature of the facts,” Dutch police and prosecutors said in a joint statement.

Netherlands Shooting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, and Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus observe a moment of silence after putting flowers at a makeshift memorial for the victims Source: Peter Dejong via PA Images

Police have said they found a red Renault Clio that they suspect had carjacked before the attacked and used as a getaway car afterwards. They had also found a firearm after his arrest. 

The suspect had been freed from jail in a rape case two weeks ago. 

Tanis was originally arrested in 2017 then released from pre-trial detention, before being taken back into custody when he breached his bail conditions, the central Netherlands district court said. 

He was freed again at the start of March.

In 2014, he was convicted of “illegal possession of weapons” and attempted theft but acquitted of attempted manslaughter. He was also convicted in recent months for shoplifting and burglary.

‘Filled with horror’

A stream of mourners, including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, laid flowers at the site of the attack.

“A day later, I am still filled with horror,” Rutte told parliament. 

There are still many questions about the motive, and the police and prosecutors still have to do a lot of work. But there is no doubt that the impact was huge.

Netherlands: Fatal shooting at 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht Visitors place floral tributes near the scene of the fatal shooting at 24 Oktoberplein Source: Robin Utrecht/Sipa USA via PA Images

Flags have been flown at half-mast on many buildings around The Netherlands and on foreign embassies today. 

Support for The Netherlands has poured in from around the world, including the United States, the EU and Russia.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “America stands with you. We will continue to do all we can to help you in this terrible time of tragedy.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country’s intelligence agency was “looking into” the attack.

“Some say it is a family matter, some say it is a terror attack… Our intelligence agency is looking into the matter”, Erdogan told Ulke TV yesterday.

The Netherlands yesterday boosted security at airports and other key buildings in response to the incident. However, following the arrest authorities lowered the threat level in Utrecht from the maximum level five. 

Includes reporting by - © AFP, 2019

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