International News Editor
On Monday, March 18, Dutch authorities arrested the man suspected of opening fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht, killing three people and injuring five others, according to CNN. The police identified the suspect as Gokmen Tanis, 37, who has had previous run-ins with law enforcement.
While the reason for his actions are not confirmed, Dutch authorities are considering “a possible terrorist motive” for the incident, reports CNN. Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said the motive behind the attack is still unclear.
The incident occurred at around 10:45am local time as police responded to reports of a shooting on board one of the city’s trams at the 24 Oktoberplein Junction. According to BBC News, one witness told local media that “a man started shooting wildly.” Several of the injured were said to be in a critical condition. Additionally, other witnesses spoke about their efforts to help those affected by the train’s emergency stop. The shooter then fled the scene, which led to the manhunt up until his arrest on Monday night.
The New York Times reports that “thus far, a terrorist motive is being strongly considered,” according to the national police. They explain that “the reason for this, among other things, is a note found in the getaway car. Other motives aren’t being ruled out. These are being investigated as well.” However, people that knew the suspect said the violence may have come from a domestic dispute, but police have found no links between the suspect and the victims on the tram.
The New York Times highlights how terrorist attacks frequently seen in other countries Belgium, Britain, France, and Germany are not seen in the Netherlands. In addition, gun attacks are not as common in this country and as such, the country was taken by surprise when this shooting occurred.
Mr. Tanis had previously been arrested multiple times before the incident and was most recently facing a rape charge. The New York Times reports that people who knew him from the Kanaleneiland neighborhood of Utrecht, home to many immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, described him as “erratic, troubled and aggressive.” This could lend to the argument of a domestic dispute or instead that this was a more random act of terror without any clear motive in mind.
CNN confirms that a second suspect has also been taken into custody, Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said, adding that it is not clear what his involvement was in the shooting. The police did say that the incident was largely the work of one person.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed his condolences to those who had lost a family member in the attack that happened “literally in the heart of our country,” reports CNN. He also said local elections would happen as planned on Wednesday, but flags would be flown at half-mast. In response to this event, police in Rotterdam, a city around 40 miles away from Utrecht, have increased security around mosques and transport stations in the city, according to a post on their official Twitter account.
BBC News highlights the international response to the incident stating, “leaders from around the world, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, offered their condolences. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU ‘stands side by side with the Netherlands and its people during these difficult times.’”
Additionally, some have even gone as far as to aid the country in their investigation. Sputnik News states, “Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is involved in an investigation into the shooting attack in the Dutch city of Utrecht, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.” Erdogan has expressed that the motives themselves, and whether or not they were domestic or terrorist, are being specifically investigated.
As mentioned above, the Netherlands is a country that does not typically suffer gun violence and potential acts of terror as other countries do. This shooting was especially frightening as it followed another deadly shooting in New Zealand in which 50 people were killed. Their response, as well as that of New Zealand in response to the shooting there, are two examples of a government responding rapidly and appropriately to a shooting. While this came as a shock to the country and closely followed closely incident, the country responded well, tightening security measures in the surrounding area.