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7 dead, 15 wounded in shooting rampage at Dutch mall

ALPHEN AAN DEN RIJN, Netherlands — A man armed with a machine gun opened fire in a crowded shopping mall on Saturday, killing six people and wounding 15, then committed suicide, officials and witnesses said.

Children were among the casualties, including an infant who was lightly injured, said Mayor Bas Eenhoorn. Three of the wounded were in critical condition.

The rampage ended when the attacker shot himself in the head at the Ridderhof mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, a suburb 19 miles southwest of Amsterdam.

"It's too terrible for words, a shock for us all," Eenhoorn said. "Alphen is in mourning."

The gunman was identified as Tristan van der Vlis, 24, and it was "all but certain" he acted alone, District Attorney Kitty Nooy said. Afterward, a note was found in the attacker's black Mercedes-Benz containing threats that he had planted explosives at three other malls in the city, Nooy said. The malls were evacuated, but no explosives were found.

A witness identified as Maart Verbeek told state broadcaster NOS the attacker appeared to be firing randomly.

"There was a panic in the mall, a lot of people running," said Verbeek, a pet shop owner. "I see the attacker coming, walking, and I go inside the store … and I see him going by with a big machine gun."

Nooy said the shooter was a native Dutchman from Alphen who had previous run-ins with the law, including an illegal weapons possession charge when he was 17 that was later dropped. He lived with his father.

He had permits for five guns, including the machine gun, Eenhoorn said.

The exact type of weapon was not identified. Dutch law forbids ownership of most firearms, but makes exceptions for some collectors and hunters. Eenhoorn said prosecutors were investigating whether the permits had been properly granted.

He said the gunman's mother and father were cooperating with the police investigation. The mother found a suicide note at her son's apartment, but Eenhoorn said it did not offer any explanation for the attack.

7 dead, 15 wounded in shooting rampage at Dutch mall 04/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2011 11:15pm]

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