The incident which took place in Utrecht is being investigated as a possible terror attack, though authorities say motive may be "family reasons."

Police forces stand near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019, where a shooting took place.
Police forces stand near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019, where a shooting took place. (AFP)

Police arrested a gunman suspected of opening fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday morning. At least three people were killed and five others wounded. 

Police said the suspect, 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis, had been taken into custody after an hours-long manhunt and had earlier run-ins with authorities in the Netherlands.

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.

In the morning, Dutch national counterterrorism chief said shooting incidents occurred at several locations in the city of Utrecht on Monday.

"Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht," Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague.

But hours after the shooting, the gunman's motive remained unclear. A prosecutor said it could be for "family reasons" and Anadolu 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.

The shooting "appears to be a terrorist attack," the head of the country's counterterrorism agency said earlier on Monday. Dutch broadcaster NOS said Aalbersberg made the assessment after the shooting.

The Netherlands boosted security at airports, schools, mosques, transportation hubs and other key buildings, Dutch military police said.

'A possible terror motive'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had earlier said that "a possible terrorist motive is part of the investigation."

Aalbersberg said on Twitter that he was having "crisis consultations" over the incident.

Earlier on Wednesday, Dutch 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 to where it had been after the suspect was arrested, the National Counterterrorism Agency said.

Turkey investigates

The Turkish intelligence agency is investigating whether Monday’s attack in the Dutch city of Utrecht was personally motivated or an act of terrorism, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised interview on Monday night.

“We strongly condemn the attack that took place today (March 18, 2019) in the city of Utrecht, in the Netherlands regardless of the identity of the perpetrator and the motivation behind it,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“We extend our condolences and wish fortitude to the families of those who lost their lives, and speedy recovery to those wounded,” the ministry said, adding that Turkey was in “full solidarity” with the Dutch people and government.

Attacks in the Netherlands

The suspect had previously been arrested, regional prosecutor Rutger Jeuken told reporters, 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."

Witness Daan Molenaar, who said he had been sitting at the front of the tram when the shooting started, told national broadcaster NOS he did not believe it was a terrorist attack.

"The first thing I thought was, this is some kind of revenge or something, or somebody who's really mad and grabbed a pistol," he said.

Utrecht, the Netherlands' fourth-largest city with a population of around 340,000, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population.
Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has been largely spared the kind of attacks that have rocked its closest European neighbours in the past few years, but there has been a series of recent scares.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly

Source: TRTWorld and agencies