A gunman killed three people and wounded five during a mid-morning tram ride Monday in the Dutch city of Utrecht, raising the specter of another extremist attack only days after the murderous rampage in New Zealand.
Authorities seized a Turkish-born suspect after a manhunt that convulsed the historic city of nearly 350,000 people for most of the day.
As night set in, three victims lay in critical condition, and the motive for the bloodshed remained under investigation. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said authorities were trying to determine what prompted the attack and whether there were “terror motives.”
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said the suspect, identified as Gokmen Tanis, 37, was known to justice authorities and had a criminal record, but would not elaborate.
Local media said Tanis had been charged several times over the past years with offenses including attempted manslaughter and petty crime in and around Utrecht. Two weeks ago he was in court on charges of raping of a woman in 2017, news reports said.
Police and emergency pensonnel at the scene where several people were wounded in a shooting on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht.(ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN / AFP/Getty Images)
Police walk near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace station in Utrecht, where a shooting took place.(ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN / AFP/Getty Images)
An investigation is underway after a gunman opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht, killing at least one person and wounding several in what officials said was a possible terrorist incident.(ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN / AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency services at the scene of a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands.(Lilian Bruigom )
Police said they also detained another man on suspicion of involvement but released no details.
The shooting came three days after 50 people were killed in an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers. An immigrant-hating white supremacist has been charged in the massacre. There was no immediate indication of any link between the two events.
The Utrecht attack took place at a busy intersection in a residential neighborhood. The gunman was alleged to have had an automatic weapon, Grapperhaus said.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Dutch authorities put the Netherlands’ fourth-largest city on lockdown, raised the threat level in the area to the maximum of 5 and tightened security at airports and key buildings in the country.
“If it is a terror attack,” the prime minister declared, “then we have only one answer: Our nation, democracy, must be stronger than fanaticism and violence.”
Heavily armed officers with dogs searched for the killer, gathering at one point in front of an apartment building close to the scene. However, the suspect was later arrested at another location in the city. The threat level soon returned to 4.
Police said a red Renault compact car was carjacked shortly before the shooting and later found across town.
The identities of the shooting victims were not immediately released, and Grapperhaus would not say if any were known to the gunman.
Political parties halted campaigning ahead of provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday that will also determine the makeup of parliament’s upper house. A televised debate also was canceled. It was not clear if campaigning would resume Tuesday.