PARIS: France has deported 40 foreign imams for “preaching hatred” in the past three years, a quarter of them in the last six months, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday. The minister vowed to clamp down on mosques and preachers inciting hatred after a suspected Islamist beheaded his boss during an attack on a gas factory last week. The attack, which had the hallmarks of a terrorist act but is also believed to have personal motivations, was the second in six months in France which is battling to curb radicalization that has seen hundreds of citizens leave to wage jihad in Iraq and Syria. Any “foreign preacher of hate will be deported,” said Cazeneuve, adding that several mosques were being investigated for inciting terrorism and if found to be doing so, “will be shut down.” “We have deported 40 preachers of hatred since 2012. Since the beginning of the year we have examined 22 cases, and around 10 imams and preachers of hatred have been expelled,” said Cazeneuve. Yassin Salhi, 35, on Sunday confessed during interrogation to killing his boss and pinning his head to a fence of the Air Products factory near the eastern city of Lyon. The severed head was discovered flanked by two Islamic flags and it later emerged he had sent a selfie of himself with the head to a number believed to belong to a French jihadist currently in Syria. While Salhi was known to security services for links to radical Islamists in France, and his crime bore the hallmarks of a terrorist act, sources close to the investigation have suggested a personal dimension after a dispute with his employer two days earlier. “There is no doubt of the personal motivations but there is a symbolism taken from the most atrocious, abject images of terrorism,” said Cazeneuve.
At least three dead in multiple shooting in Utrecht, police hunting Turkish-born man
Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’
Updated 25 min 40 sec ago
DUBAI: At least three people have been killed and five others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands on Monday morning.
Dutch security forces were hunting for a 37-year-old Turkish man in connection with the incident, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack. The city's mayor confirmed the death of three people on Monday afternoon.
"At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously," Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said in a video statement on Twitter. The number of injured was later reduced to five.
"We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.
Dozens of armed police plus canine units later surrounded a building a few hundred metres away, an AFP reporter at the scene said, but it was not clear if the gunman was inside.
Police said they believed a red Renault Clio had been carjacked around the time of the shooting and had been found abandoned later.
The Utrecht municipality said it advised "everyone to stay indoors until more is known, new incidents are not excluded," but this was withdrawn at around 4:30pm local time. The local hospital said it had set up a crisis centre. Tram traffic in the area was halted.
Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident.
Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökmen Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.
The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.
Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.
There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.
“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Dutch anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”
Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level.
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police.
Police spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved.
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.
A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.
A shooting occurred on the #24oktoberplein in #Utrecht. The incident has been reported at 10.45 hour. Multiple people have been injured. The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter.
Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.
“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”
The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.