Family dispute could be behind shooting in Utrecht, says Turkish media

Policemen and rescuers at work following a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, on March 18, 2019.
Policemen and rescuers at work following a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, on March 18, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

ANKARA • The Turkish intelligence agency is investigating whether Monday's shooting on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht was personally motivated or an act of terrorism, President Tayyip Erdogan said.

Dutch police have arrested a Turkish-born suspect, 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis, over the attack that left three people dead and five wounded.

His arrest came after a seven-hour manhunt by Dutch security forces.

"Our intelligence services are investigating all of this, our intelligence chief told me that he was going to gather all details and would come back to me," Mr Erdogan told Turkish TV channel Ulke TV on Monday. "Some say that it is a family dispute, others say it is a terrorist act," he said.

Dutch prosecutors said yesterday they were investigating a possible terrorist motive behind the shooting, citing "the nature of the shooting and a letter found in the getaway car".

But the statement also said that "other motives are not being ruled out".

There are two other suspects in custody, Dutch police said, but their role was unclear.


According to Turkish media, the suspect was born in Yozgat, central Turkey. Turkish state news agency Anadolu, citing "relatives" of the alleged assailant, said on Monday the shooting may have been a possible "family dispute".

The father of the suspect, Mr Mehmet Tanis, said his son should be punished if found responsible, a Turkish news agency reported.

He said he had lost contact with his son, having returned to his homeland in 2008 after divorcing his wife, DHA agency reported. She remained in the Netherlands.

Separately, Mr Erdogan has described a mass shooting which killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques last week as part of a wider attack on Turkey and threatened to send back "in caskets" anyone who tried to take the battle to Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan, who is seeking to rally support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections, has pointed to the New Zealand attack as evidence of global anti-Muslim sentiment.

At weekend election rallies, Mr Erdogan showed video footage of the shootings, which the gunman had broadcast on Facebook, earning a rebuke from New Zealand's Foreign Minister who said it could endanger New Zealanders abroad.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder last Saturday after the attack in the city of Christchurch.

"They are testing us from 16,500km away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there. This isn't an individual act, this is organised," Mr Erdogan said, without elaborating.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Family dispute could be behind shooting, says Turkish media'. Print Edition | Subscribe