Dutch police have named a suspect in the ‘terrorist motivated’ shooting on a tram in Utrecht, which resulted in the death of at least one person and left several others injured, as a 37-year-old Turkish man.
Police tweeted a photograph of Gökman Tanis, captured on the tram’s CCTV just minutes before the incident at 10.45am this morning, and urged the public to ‘look out for him but do not approach.’
The gunman, who may not have been acting alone, fled the scene, reportedly in a red Renault Clio compact sedan, which has since been found abandoned in Utrecht.
The photograph was released as heavily armed police gathered in front of an apartment block some 200 yards from the scene the shooting, where the suspected gunman is believed to be holed up. Police said they were searching for the shooter ‘with all possible means.’
Shortly after 12.30pm local time, the Dutch government raised the terrorism threat level to the highest possible in the province of Utrecht.
The head of the Dutch counter-terrorism agency Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the ‘threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,’ referring to the highest level, adding that the shooting ‘appears to be a terrorist attack’.
‘The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,’ he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police.
Utrecht University has put the entire campus on lockdown, and according to Dutch news website NOS News, all train traffic to Utrecht Central has stopped.
Police have also instructed all schools, as well as mosques and transportation hubs, in the city to keep their doors closed, while the manhunt continues.
Dutch military police have been ordered to be on ‘extra alert’ at Dutch airports and ‘vital buildings’ due to the ongoing police manhunt.
Police spokesman Bernhard Jens said no one had been detained yet in the shooting, and one possible ‘explanation is that the person fled by car.’
He did not rule out the possibility that more than one shooter was involved in the attack.
‘We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,’ Jens said.
The first casualty was reported by the Dutch ANP news agency, which stated that the victim was completely covered with a sheet and lying on the tracks between two carriages.
The Utrecht police said a square at a tram station outside the city centre had been cordoned off as emergency services attend the scene.
Officials added that trauma helicopters were sent to the incident at 24 Oktoberplein, and they are appealing to the public to stay away to allow first responders to do their work.
They had no further details about the incident and could not say how badly hurt the victims were, or how many had been injured.
‘Several shots were fired in a tram and several people were injured. Helicopters are at the scene and no arrests have been made,’ said police spokesman Joost Lanshage.
Dutch media 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.
Local resident Jimmy De Koster witnessed the incident and told De Telegraaf: ‘I was standing at the traffic lights on 24 Oktoberplein and I saw a woman lying down, I think she would have been between 20 and 35 years old.
‘She shouted ‘I didn’t do anything’.’
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the situation ‘very worrying’ and the country’s counterterror coordinator said in a tweet that a crisis team was meeting to discuss the situation.
Utrecht is located about 25 miles south of Amsterdam in central Holland.
Dutch military police have been put on extra alert at Dutch airports and at key buildings across the country, including in Amsterdam and The Hague, as the Utrecht manhunt is taking place.
German police say they have upped surveillance on the country’s border with the Netherlands and are on the lookout for the gunman believed to be responsible for the Utrecht shooting.
Heinrich Onstein, a spokesman for the federal police in the border state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said additional police had been added to watch not only major highways, but also minor crossings as well as railway routes.
He says the federal police are in close contact with authorities in the Netherlands and have a description of the suspect.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted his concern in the wake of the incident, saying 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,’ Mr Hunt wrote.
‘We are in contact with Dutch authorities, urgently seeking further information. The UK stands with the people of the Netherlands ‘
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