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Anti-terror co-ordinator lowers threat level in Utrecht province after arrest|
The Associated Press · Posted: Mar 18, 2019 7:03 AM ET
Dutch police have arrested the main suspect in Monday morning's shooting on a tram in Utrecht that left three people dead and five wounded.
Prosecutors say Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis, 37, has had previous run-ins with police, but they did not give any information about a possible motive. Police said they also detained another man on suspicion of involvement but released no further details.
"We assume a terror motive," Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said, though he added that other motives could not be ruled out.
"If it had terror motives, that is being investigated. But it was very serious. The world shares our grief," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Dutch military police tightened security at airports and key buildings in the country, and Rutte declared: "If it is a terror attack, then we have only one answer: Our nation, democracy, must be stronger than fanaticism and violence."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the Turkey's intelligence agency is investigating whether Tanis was personally motivated or whether it was an act of terrorism.
The Dutch anti-terror co-ordinator raised the threat alert in Utrecht province to its highest level immediately after the shooting around 10:45 a.m. local time. But the level was reduced to five, one below the highest level, following the arrest.
The attack came three days after 50 people were killed when an immigrant-hating white supremacist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers. There was no immediate indication of any link between the two events.
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."