The Hague: Dutch police kept up a huge manhunt on Saturday for an assailant who stabbed three youths in The Hague’s main shopping area.
Officials said they were keeping an open mind about the motive for the attack, which came as shoppers hunted bargains on Black Friday.
The incident caused panic in The Hague as it happened just hours after two people were stabbed to death in London allegedly by an ex-prisoner convicted of terrorism offences.
The male attacker ran off after the stabbings at a department store in the city centre’s Grote Marktstraat, The Hague’s main shopping area.
“We haven’t arrested a suspect yet. So we are currently very busy trying the find the suspect,” police spokeswoman Marije Kuiper told AFP.
“It’s a little too early to speculate about that kind of thing,” she said when asked about a possible terrorist motive, adding that investigators were still looking at several possible scenarios.
Police forensics officers were seen examining a knife found at the scene overnight.
The victims were a 13-year-old boy from The Hague, a girl of 15 from Alphen aan den Rijn and a 15-year-old girl from Leiderdorp, the ANP news agency said, quoting police. They did not know each other, police said.
They were all allowed to go home from hospital overnight.
Images on social media showed shoppers running in panic away from the scene, on a night-time retail street lit by Christmas fairy lights.
‘Screaming and running away’
Two teenage girls came running into the store after being stabbed, broadcaster NOS quoted witnesses as saying.
“I saw two girls screaming and running away. A man fled. He jumped very athletically over benches to get away. He looked like a cheetah,” one witness told NOS.
“People were trying to get away. but that didn’t work. I was shocked.”
Police helicopters flew overhead and several emergency vehicles were on site, the correspondent said.
Police initially gave a description of a man they were looking for aged between 40 and 50 but later withdrew it, saying they were still investigating.
The stabbing took place not far from parliament, which is the seat of government for the Netherlands and home to many international organisations and courts.
In Britain, two members of the public were killed in a stabbing on London Bridge in the heart of the capital on Friday.
The Netherlands has seen a series of terror attacks and plots, although not so far on the scale of those in other European countries.
In March four people were killed when a Turkish-born man opened fire on a tram in the city of Utrecht.
In August 2018 an Afghan man stabbed and seriously wounded two American tourists at Amsterdam’s central station, saying he wanted to “protect the Prophet Mohammed”.
He was jailed for 26 years in October this year.
Earlier this month a Pakistani man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for a plot to kill far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.