Was the Dutch Tram Shooting an Act of Terrorism? It Looks Doubtful. March 19, 2019

Was the Dutch Tram Shooting an Act of Terrorism? It Looks Doubtful.

Last night, after a seven-hour manhunt in the Dutch city of Utrecht, police detained a man who they say killed three tram passengers with a gun. At least five more people were wounded.

The suspect was identified as 37-year-old Gökmen Tanis, who is, according to the New York Times,

… an immigrant from the central Turkish town of Yozgat. Mr. Tanis had been arrested before and is facing a rape charge, according to the Dutch national broadcaster and people who know him. …

He’s very religious,” but also “a real guy of the streets, aggressive as well,” Alptekin Akdogan, who said he knew Mr. Tanis, told the New York Times. He said he and Mr. Tanis had grown up in the Kanaleneiland neighborhood,

… a district of Utrecht where the majority of the population hail from Turkey and Morocco.

Many mosques, schools, transportation hubs, and businesses in Utrecht — the Netherlands’ fourth-biggest city and one of its oldest — were in lockdown soon after the 10:30 a.m. shooting and until shortly after 6 p.m., when the suspect was apprehended.

A lot is still unknown about the gunman and his motive. Some sources dispute that Tanis is a particularly pious Muslim. Although the mayor of Utrecht said he and his team were “working on the assumption of a terrorist motive,” other reports say Tanis’ shocking act of violence may be an honor killing or the result of a family dispute.

It’s clear that Tanis has a serious rap sheet:

Local networks said that the suspect had been charged several times over the past years, anything from attempted manslaughter to petty crime in and around Utrecht. The networks said that only two weeks ago he was in court on charges of raping of woman in 2017.

A BBC source in Turkey claims that the suspect had fought on the side of Muslim rebel groups in Chechnya.

“He was arrested because of his connections with [Islamic State] but released later,” the [source] told the BBC.

However, no other reliable media have corroborated this.

Dutch broadsheet De Volkskrant interviewed Utrechters who say they know Tanis, and  they describe him with terms like “riff-raff,” “loser,” and “borderliner”; they don’t think he is a terrorist. One resident of Kanaleneiland says Tanis is “a lost boy with the IQ of a shrimp.”

We’ll update this story, or do a follow-up post, as more facts come in.

(Image via Utrecht PD)

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