March 19, 2019
The scene of this morning’s shooting. Photo: Lilian Bruigom via AP via HH
By Dutch News NL
The Dutch counter terrorism unit NCTV has raised the threat level in the Utrecht region to the maximum in the wake of Monday morning’s tram shooting, which appears to have left at least one person dead.
Agency chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a short news conference that the increase applies only to Utrecht and will last until 6pm. The aim, he said, is primarily to allow the emergency service workers to do their jobs. ‘There is no reason to raise the threat level in the rest of the country,’ he said.
Aalbersberg gave few details about the shooting but confirmed one suspect fled the scene and a major operation is underway to catch him. Police said earlier the suspect may have driven off in a red Renault Clio.
Anti-terrorist police spent an hour searching a property in Trumanlaan, close to where the shooting took place, before leaving just after 2pm. Police have also ordered people to keep out of Tichelaarslaan because of ‘danger of explosives’.
Officials have urged people to stay indoors until the crisis is over. Utrecht University and schools are advising visitors and students not to go outside, while local mosques have closed on the advice of the police.
Police have not confirmed how many people had been injured in the incident, but three people were reported to have been taken away in ambulances. Local media said one person had been killed, based on images of a body covered by a white sheet beside the tram.
Police spokesman Bernhard Jens told NOS that the suspected gunman may have fled the scene in a red Renault Clio. He said: ‘We trying to get an overview of what’s gone on, offering support to victims and of course we’re looking to catch the person responsible for this as quickly as possible.’
Security has been stepped up at Schiphol airport and other transport hubs. Children at nearby schools and at the university have been told to stay indoors.
Prime minister Mark Rutte broke off the morning meeting of coalition parties to be briefed on the incident. He described the developments as ‘very disturbing news’.
Asked about a possible terrorist motive, he replied: ‘We will investigate that thoroughly, but I am extremely concerned.’
The prime minister will hold a press conference at 2.30pm.