Tram Shooting in Utrecht, The Netherlands: Three Dead, Nine Injured in A Reportedly Terror Attack

The Dutch anti-terrorism forces are after a 37-year-old Turkey-born shooter, known to the police for previous criminal offences.

source: Wikimedia Commons

After the Friday's massacre at two New Zealand mosques in which 50 lost their lives, a man opened gunfire inside a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht earlier Monday morning. The suspected shooter remains at large.

As of 10 am ET, at least three people were confirmed dead and nine injured after the attack on the tram confirmed the Utrecht mayor Jan van Zanen in a video on Twitter. According to the Dutch anti-terrorism co-ordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the gunfire ''appears to be a terrorist attack.''

According to Aalsbersberg, there was a shooting at several locations across the city. He declined further information as the local authorities have been working hard to establish all the facts.

The local authorities raised to 5, the highest possible level in Utrecht province. The rest of the Netherlands remains under terror level 4. 

Heavily armed counter-terrorism units are hunting for a 37-year-old man, Gökmen Tanis, born in Turkey. According to the local quality news outlet, NOS, the alleged perpetrator went to a rape trial two weeks ago. His lawyer declined to comment on the issue and did not confirm whether it is the same person. 

The local TV channel, RTV Utrecht added to that, saying that he was reportedly accused of attempted manslaughter before.

 It is possible that Tanis is not acting alone, warned from the police asking the locals not to approach him in case they see him but to contact the authorities instead.

The Dutch security forces asked the residents to remain calm and stay indoors. Trains and trams have stopped running. The Utrecht Central Railway Station which is the biggest and the busiest railway station in the country, connecting the Low Lands with the rest of Europe, remains closed.

All the mosques in town are also closed for security reasons. Utrecht University has closed all premises, with nobody allowed in or out.  

The city of Utrecht is the fourth largest in the country, with a population of about 340,000 people. It is a famous student town, home of several higher education institutions, including the University of Utrecht and the Utrecht School of Applied Sciences. The gunfires are extremely rare in Utrecht as well as in The Netherlands in general.

The shooting comes several days before important senatorial elections in the Netherlands. Far-right politician Geert Wilders, famous for his anti-Islamic rhetoric, announced on Twitter that he would suspend his campaign because of the shooting. 

The Dutch Prime Minister said in a press conference that such an act of terrorism, is an attack against the country's openess and tolerance. King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima said the Royal Family was deeply saddened by the gunfire in Utrecht, calling it '' unacceptable.''

Do you think that such attacks could have been prevented?