Seven dead after gunman opens fire in Netherlands shopping centre

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Initially, we thought it was fireworks ... I didn't see the shooter, I was just thinking about running.


Seven people have been shot dead after a gunman opened fire in a busy shopping mall in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn, in the Netherlands. Tristan van der Vlis, believed to be a Dutch national who had a criminal record, killed six people and injured numerous others before turning the weapon on himself.

Officials have said van der Vlis, 24, who was local to the area and was known to police, used weapons he was legally permitted to own to carry out the attack. Police confirmed he was licensed to own five firearms, and used three in the attack. Unconfirmed reports say he left behind a final letter addressed to his mother. Officers this afternoon searched his house, and confirmed he almost certainly acted alone.

The Ridderhof mall was evacuated and cordoned off after the shooting, amid mass panic. Witnesses described van der Vlis as looking "agitated and distressed" before he opened fire. One witness said: "I saw a woman I know walking at the other side. She wanted to enter a shop when a tall young man approached and shot her in cold blood. He walked calmly and shot through the windows of the shop where I was hiding." Police allegedly arrived before the gunman killed himself.

The mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn, Bas Eenhoorn, said children may have been among the victims, although it is not clear if any were killed. "It's too terrible for words, a shock for us all," he said. "Under these circumstances, with many people shopping at the Ridderhof today, including parents with children, it's an almost incomprehensible situation." Mark Rutte, the prime minister, said he was "horrified" by the shootings.