UTRECHT, Netherlands – Netherlands prosecutors said on Tuesday they were seriously considering terrorism as a motive behind a shooting on a tram in the central city of Utrecht that claimed the lives of three people and left three others seriously injured but have ruled out any relations between the alleged attacker and the victims.
Police have detained a 37-year-old Turkish-born man suspected of opening fire on passengers aboard the tram on Monday morning at 24 Oktoberplein, a busy junction underneath a highway bridge to the west of the Utrecht city center.
“So far, a terrorist motive has been seriously taken into account,” prosecutors said in a statement, a letter discovered in the car used by the alleged gunman gave weight to this preliminary line of inquiry.
A 19-year-old woman and two men aged 28 and 49 died in the shooting, while a 74-year-old man and two women aged 20 and 21, respectively, were hospitalized in a serious condition.
Four others were slightly injured during their bid to escape the scene of the attack, although none of those included bullet wounds.
Prosecutors said there was no relation between the alleged assailant and the victims.
Police also arrested two men whose potential involvement in the attack was to be investigated.
Security was boosted across the city.
On Monday, police named the main suspect in the shooting as Gokmen Tanis and released an image of the alleged killer on a tram apparently just minutes before the attack.
Dutch media reported he had appeared in court on several occasions.
The shooting took place at around 10:45 am.
The Netherlands government ordered flags to be flown at half-staff outside official buildings on Tuesday.
The country was overcome by “horror and disbelief,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
“Our thoughts go to the victims’ relatives, to the families who have lost a beloved member. Our thoughts also go to the wounded, who are now fighting for their lives. The whole of the Netherlands shares your deep pain,” he said in a statement.
Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands located just 40 kilometers (24 miles) to the southeast of the capital, Amsterdam.