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Ankara Investigating Motives of Turkish Gunman Held in Utrecht Shooting

Ankara Investigating Motives of Turkish Gunman Held in Utrecht Shooting

Monday, 18 March, 2019 - 19:15
A view of the site of a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands, March 18, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed Monday that the Turkish intelligence agency was investigating whether Monday’s attack in the Dutch city of Utrecht was personally motivated or an act of terrorism.

Dutch police arrested a man of Turkish origin, who is suspected of shooting dead three people and wounding five on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday.

Police said the suspect, 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis, had been taken into custody after an hours-long manhunt.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the shooting. In a written statement, it said it "strongly" condemned the attack, "regardless of the identity of the perpetrator and the motivation behind it."

Ankara stood with the Dutch people and the government, it added.

The city was put into lockdown after the shooting, shortly after the morning rush hour, which authorities initially said was an apparent terrorist attack. Police conducted raids in several locations after issuing an image of Tanis and warning the public not to approach him.

But hours after the shooting, the gunman’s motive remained unclear.

A prosecutor said it could be for “family reasons” and Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, quoting relatives of the gunman, said he had fired at a relative on the tram and had then shot at others who tried to help her.

Authorities had raised the terrorism threat in Utrecht province to its highest level, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports, other vital infrastructure and at mosques.

The threat level was reduced by one notch after the suspect was arrested.

The National Counter-Terrorism Agency “reduced the threat level for the province of Utrecht to level 4. Motive is the arrest of the main suspect of the shooting,” it said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks immediately after 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.

“Our country has today been shocked by an attack in Utrecht... A terrorist motive cannot be excluded,” Rutte said.

The suspect had previous run-ins with law enforcement, the regional prosecutor said on Monday. Prosecutor Rutger Jeuken told reporters the man had previously been arrested, without giving further details.

The shooting took place in Kanaleneiland, a quiet residential district on the outskirts of Utrecht with a large immigrant population.

“It’s frightening that something like this can happen so close to home,” said Omar Rahhou, who said his parents lived on a street cordoned off by police. “These things normally happen far away but this brings it very close, awful.”

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