Letter in Dutch suspect’s getaway car suggests terror motive: prosecutors

1 / 5
Utrecht's police chief said a suspect in the deadly tram shooting in the Dutch city on Monday morning had been arrested, after an attack which saw three people killed and at least five others injured. (AFP)
2 / 5
A handout released by Utrecht Police shows Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis. (Utrecht Police/AFP)
3 / 5
Dutch counter terrorism police prepare to enter a house after a shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday, March 18, 2019. Police in the central Dutch city of Utrecht say on Twitter that "multiple" people have been injured as a result of a shooting in a tram in a residential neighborhood. (AP)
4 / 5
A body is covered with a blanket next to a tram following a shooting in Utrecht on Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
5 / 5
An image grab shows, a body lying next to a tram as emergency services attend the scene of a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands on Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Letter in Dutch suspect’s getaway car suggests terror motive: prosecutors

  • Turkish-born main suspect Gokmen Tanis and two unnamed men remain in custody
  • Three people were killed in the shooting, five injured

UTRECHT, Netherlands: Dutch prosecutors and police said they were “seriously” investigating a terrorist motive for the Utrecht tram attack because of evidence including a letter found in the main suspect’s getaway car.

“So far, a terrorist motive is seriously being taken into account. This is based on a letter found in the getaway car among other things and the nature of the facts,” they said in a joint statement.

Turkish-born main suspect Gokmen Tanis, 37, and two unnamed men from Utrecht aged 23 and 27 remain in custody. Police found a red Renault Clio after Monday’s attack which they said he had used to flee.

The three people who died in the shooting were a 19-year-old woman from Vianen, which is near Utrecht, and two men aged 28 and 49 from Utrecht itself, the statement said.

“So far our investigation has established no link between the main suspect and the victims,” police and prosecutors added.

Dutch and Turkish media reports had previously reported that a family dispute may have been the motive for the shooting.




Police forces walk near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. (AFP/ANP)

However, the police and prosecutors said that “other motives are not excluded, they are also being investigated.”

Armed police arrested Tanis in Utrecht after a huge manhunt on Monday during which police released his picture on social media.

“A firearm was found during his arrest,” the statement added.




Emergency services stand at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where a shooting took place. (AFP)

Authorities earlier 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 had earlier tweeted an image of 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.

 

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop.

(With AFP and Reuters)


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.