Three people have been killed and five others injured in a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the mayor has confirmed.
Police have issued a photo of the suspected gunman, 37-year-old Gökmen Tanis, born in Turkey, who is still at large. The public has been told not to approach him.
“Several shots were fired in a tram and several people were injured. Helicopters are at the scene and no arrests have been made,” police spokesman Joost Lanshage said.
Terrorism has not been ruled out and the threat level has been raised to its highest level in Utrecht province. Schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other infrastructure, as well as at local mosques.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident, which came three days after a lone gunman killed 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.
De politie vraagt u uit te kijken naar de 37-jarige Gökman Tanis (geboren in Turkije) in verband met het incident vanmorgen aan het #24oktoberplein in Utrecht.— Politie Utrecht (@PolitieUtrecht) March 18, 2019
Benader hem niet zelf maar bel direct de opsporingstiplijn 0800-6070 pic.twitter.com/QZ88s3Wl0k
“Our country has today been shocked by an attack in Utrecht... A terrorist motive cannot be excluded,” Rutte said in a statement to the media.
“The first reports have led to disbelief and disgust. Innocent people have been struck by violence... We are now doing everything we can to find the perpetrator or perpetrators as soon as possible. That is now our complete focus.”
Dutch police said a Red Renault Clio had been hijacked shortly before the shooting, and was later found further south in the city. They asked for anyone with information about the car to get in touch.
Earlier, the head of Dutch counter-terrorism said shots had been fired at several locations. Counter-terrorism units surrounded a house in Utrecht, Dutch television showed, but no one appeared to have been arrested.
“A lot is still unclear at this point and local authorities are working hard to establish all the facts. What we already know is that a culprit is at large,” Counter-Terrorism Agency head Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference.
Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted an eyewitness as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground amid some kind of confrontation. Several men ran away from the scene, the witness said.
Authorities said a square at a tram station outside the city centre had been cordoned off and emergency services were at the scene, Reuters reports.
BREEK - Volgens getuigen heeft een man in een tram op weg naar Utrecht CS een wapen getrokken en meerdere personen neergeschoten. Hulpdiensten massaal aanwezig en bezig met eerste hulp in de tram. pic.twitter.com/eQOWF2e5Ze— Yelle Tieleman (@YelleTieleman) March 18, 2019
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was “deeply concerned” and that crisis talks were to be held in response to the incident.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the shooting as “hugely concerning news” and said the UK “stands with the people of the Netherlands”.
He tweeted: “Hugely concerning news of a gunman opening fire on a tram in Utrecht, no doubt with innocent people just getting on with their day.
“We are in contact with Dutch authorities, urgently seeking further information.
“The UK stands with the people of the Netherlands.”
Hugely concerning news of a gunman opening fire on a tram in Utrecht, no doubt with innocent people just getting on with their day. We are in contact with Dutch authorities, urgently seeking further information. The UK stands with the people of the Netherlands— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) March 18, 2019
Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population. Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.
The incident comes after a lone gunman killed 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, last Friday.