AFP/Reuters/The Hague: Unlike the police, the mayor of Utrecht, Jan van Zanen, referred to Mr. Tanis as a suspect. “We are working on the assumption of a terrorist motive,” Mr. van Zanen said. “We think there is just one perpetrator, but we cannot exclude the possibly of there being several perpetrators.”
The Dutch government raised the terrorism threat level to the highest possible in Utrecht. Dutch police were hunting down a suspect after a shooting on Monday on a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht that left three dead and nine injured, according to police.
The Netherlands’ main counterterrorism agency raised its assessment of the threat in Utrecht province, just southeast of Amsterdam, to the highest level, and said it had activated a crisis team. The Dutch paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure points.
By midafternoon there had been no arrests, but the Utrecht Police said they were looking for Gokmen Tanis, 37, who was born in Turkey, and posted a security camera image of him online. They did not call him a suspect, but said he was “associated with the incident” and warned people not to approach him.
Authorities immediately raised the terror alert for the area to the maximum level and said they are considering the possibility of a “terrorist motive” in the attack. Dutch military police went on extra alert at Dutch airports and at key buildings in the country as the Utrecht manhunt took place.
Police, including heavily armed officers, flooded the area after the shooting on Monday morning on a tram at a busy traffic intersection in a residential neighborhood. They later erected a white tent over an area where a body appeared to be lying next to the tram.
Utrecht police said trauma helicopters were sent to the scene and appealed to the public to stay away.
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.
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 Netherlands’ anti-terror coordinator raised the threat alert to its highest level around Utrecht. Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province.”
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message.