A gunman opened fire with a machine gun at a crowded shopping mall outside Amsterdam on Saturday, leaving at least seven people dead and wounding 15 others, officials and witnesses said.The attacker was among the dead after fatally shooting himself at the Ridderhof mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, Mayor Bas Eenhoorn said.
The suburb is less than 15 miles (25 kilometres) southwest of Amsterdam.Eenhoorn said that children were among the victims, but he could not confirm whether they were among the wounded or dead, or both.
The gunman's identity was known and it was "all but certain" he acted alone, District Attorney Kitty Nooy said, but investigators were not yet ready to release his name or age.She said he was a native Dutchman from Alphen who has a criminal record.Witnesses said he had long blond hair, appeared to be about 25 years old, and wore a leather jacket with camouflage pants.
Witness Martine Spruit, a 41-year-old receptionist, told The Associated Press she was shopping at a drug store when she heard bangs and people in the store hid behind shelves.When they realized a shooting was taking place, customers shouted for employees to lock the doors."Then we heard the shots getting further away, so he was walking back and forth," said Spruit.
"Then we thought we'd have a look and there were two people lying dead near the entrance and one woman was still alive. We wanted to help but he came back and start shooting again and we locked the door again."Another witness identified as Maart Verbeek, told state broadcaster NOS the attacker had a machine gun and appeared to be shooting at random.
Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued statements saying they were shocked and sympathised with the victims and their families.Eenhoorn said several other malls in the town were evacuated, but he would not elaborate on the reason.
Although rare, shootings and violence are not unknown in the Netherlands.In 1999, four students and a teacher were hurt in a school shooting and in 2004, a teacher was shot dead by a student.Gun permits are difficult to obtain, but illegal automatic weapons and ammunition are frequently seized during drug busts.AP