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Three dead in Dutch tram shooting in possible terrorist attack

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A body lying on the ground is covered near a tram at the 24 Oktoberplace in Utrecht, on March 18, 2019 where the shooting took place.

[UTRECHT, Netherlands]  Three people were killed and nine injured in a shooting in the Dutch city of Utrecht, the mayor said Monday, adding that authorities were working on the basis of it being a terrorist attack.

"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.

"We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had earlier said there were "possible deaths" and that a terrorist motive was "not excluded".

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Dutch police released a picture of a Turkish-born man they are hunting over the shooting. 

“The police are asking you to look out for 37-year-old Gokmen Tanis (born in Turkey) in connection with the incident this morning,” Utrecht police said on Twitter, adding: “Do not approach him.”

 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. Security was also stepped up at mosques.

Utrecht, the Netherlands' fourth largest city, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population. Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.

Utrecht police said the tram station stop in a square outside the city centre had been cordoned off. Emergency services were at the scene.

AFP, REUTERS