Published: Wed, March 20, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Utrecht shooter was out on licence ahead of rape trial, court confirms

Utrecht shooter was out on licence ahead of rape trial, court confirms

A gunman killed three people and wounded five during a mid-morning tram ride Monday in the Dutch city of Utrecht, raising the spectre of another extremist attack only days after the murderous rampage in New Zealand.

The prosecutors also say investigations do not indicate the main suspect, a 37-year-old man of Turkish descent who was arrested hours after Monday's attack, knew any of the victims.

They say the man "is suspected of involvement in the shooting".

Police spokesman Martin de Wit said that a total of three people - the alleged shooter and two others whose involvement was being investigated - were in custody following Monday's attack.

The three Dutch victims were identified as a 19-year-old woman and two men aged 28 and 49.

Mourners began to lay flowers on Tuesday at the site of the attack near the 24 Oktoberplein square in memory of the victims.

Tanis was originally arrested in 2017 then released from pre-trial detention, before being taken back into custody when he breached his bail conditions, the central Netherlands district court said.

Dutch media have reported that Tanis had a long criminal background and was only released from jail two weeks ago on a number of charges.

Flags were flying half-mast on many buildings around the Netherlands and on foreign embassies. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said authorities were trying to determine whether the attack had "terror motives". Police believe he carried out a deadly shooting on a city tram that day.

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Police said a red Renault compact auto was carjacked shortly before the shooting and later found across town.

Tanis was arrested Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt that almost paralyzed the Netherlands' fourth-largest city and sent shockwaves through this nation just days after 50 people were killed when an immigrant-hating white supremacist opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers.

Public transport was running again after forensic police finished their investigations at the scene and removed the tram on which the shooting erupted.

In 2014, he was also convicted of "illegal possession of weapons" and attempted theft but acquitted of attempted manslaughter.

Mahmut Tanis, an uncle of Tanis who lives in the Netherlands, told Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency that he doubted radical motives.

Broadcaster NOS reported that some members of his families had links to fundamentalist Islamic groups, but also that he was known for unstable behavior after divorcing his wife two years ago.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "America stands with you".

"Some say it is a family matter, some say it is a terror attack".

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