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UTRECHT, Netherlands: Dutch police on Monday arrested the suspect in a shooting on a tram in the city of Utrecht in which three people were killed, a police chief said.

Three dead in shooting: Mayor

Three people were killed and nine others injured in a shooting in a tram in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, the mayor said, Dutch broadcaster NOS reported.

Police said they were looking for a 37-year-old man of Turkish origin identified as Gokmen Tanis.

Dutch police hunting Turkish-born man

Dutch police released a picture of a Turkish-born man they are hunting over a shooting on a tram in Utrecht on Monday that left one dead and several injured.

Gokman Tanis 01 Utrecht shooter
This image made available on Monday March 18, 2019 from the Twitter page of Police Utrecht shows an image of 37 year old Gokman Tanis, who police are looking for in connection with a shooting incident on a tram. Police, including heavily armed officers, flooded the area after the shooting Monday morning on a tram at a busy traffic intersection in a residential neighborhood. Image Credit: AP

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

Several wounded

Amsterdam:  A gunman opened fire on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday, killing one person and wounding several others in what officials said was a possible terrorist attack.

Armed counter-terrorism police launched a huge manhunt for the attacker, urging local residents in one of the Netherlands' biggest cities to stay indoors in case of further incidents.

Police released a picture of the Turkish-born suspect, naming him as 37-year-old Gokman Tanis, and warning people not to approach him.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the incident, just days ahead of local elections, was "deeply disturbing" and police stepped up security at mosques and airports.

A body covered in a sheet could be seen on the tracks in Utrecht as armed police and emergency services swarmed around the scene, while helicopters hovered overhead.

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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. Image Credit: AP

"We cannot exclude a terrorist motive," the head of the Dutch national counter-terrorism service, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, told a brief news conference before rushing off for a crisis meeting.

Aalbersberg said there had been shooting at "several locations" but did not give further details.

"A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman," he added.

The terror alert level in Utrecht was raised to maximum level five, he added.

Police 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.

"A shooting occurred on the 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht... Multiple people have been injured. The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter," Utrecht police said on Twitter.

'New incidents not excluded'

Police in Utrecht said the shooting took place on a tram in the 24 Oktoberplein area of the city and that "a possible terrorist motive is part of the investigation".

"Multiple people have been injured. The surrounding area has been cordoned off and we are investigating the matter... Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help."

One witness told NOS News they had seen an injured person running out of the tram with blood on her hands and clothes who then fell to the ground.

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"I brought her into my car and helped her. When the police arrived, she was unconscious," the witness, who was not named, told the broadcaster.

The Utrecht municipality said it advised "everyone to stay indoors until more is known. New incidents are not excluded." The local hospital said it had set up a crisis centre.

Local media showed photographs of masked, armed police and emergency vehicles surrounding a tram that had stopped near a road bridge.

Tram traffic in the area was halted.

"It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help."

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Masked, armed police and emergency vehicles surround a tram that had stopped near a bridge. Image Credit: Social media

Mosque security

The Dutch military police said they were on "high alert" and were boosting security at the airports and at other vital buildings in The Netherlands.

Mosques in Utrecht had shut for the day following the attack, the ANP news agency said, which comes just days after 50 people were killed at mosques in New Zealand in a rampage by an alleged white supremacist.

All major political parties including Rutte's VVD announced that they were suspending campaigning ahead of Wednesday's local elections which will determine the make-up of the Dutch senate.

Rutte also cancelled a meeting with his ruling coalition and was being briefed on the situation, officials said. He was due to give a short statement at 1330 GMT.

An increased police presence could be seen outside the parliament and Rutte's office in The Hague.

Police in the port city of Rotterdam said they had increased security outside mosques.