THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A 19-year-old student carrying a fake pistol who forced his way into the Dutch national broadcaster and demanded airtime was in custody Friday as police investigated his motives.
Prosecutors and police have not identified the man who was seen pacing around a TV studio at the NOS broadcaster’s headquarters in the city of Hilversum Thursday night holding what appeared to be a pistol with a silencer. However, Dutch media widely reported his name as Tarik Z., a student at the Delft Technical University.
The incident did not appear to have links to Islamic terror. Minister for Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten said in a statement that initial investigations suggested the teenager was acting alone.
Even so, the recorded images broadcast later of the apparently armed man dressed neatly in black suit and tie calmly speaking to a security guard in an otherwise deserted studio set the nation on edge, coming three weeks after the attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris that left 12 people dead.
NOS director Jan de Jong told his broadcaster’s radio network that he would meet police and the local mayor in Hilversum to discuss whether security – already beefed up in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack – needs to be further strengthened.
De Jong also paid tribute to the security guard who led the teenager into an empty TV studio and kept speaking to him throughout the ordeal that forced the 8 p.m. news off the air for the first time in 60 years.
“I was amazed at how unbelievably calm he was,” De Jong said.
Police rushed to the scene and stormed into the studio, guns drawn, to arrest the man, who immediately dropped his gun and surrendered without a struggle.
The NOS is one of many broadcasters to have their headquarters in Hilversum, 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Amsterdam. The area, known as the media park, has been tightly guarded since populist Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was gunned down in a parking lot there in 2002 by an animal rights activist.
Police said in a statement the man demanded airtime and threatened that bombs would go off at several locations around the Netherlands if his demand wasn’t met. Special police units evacuated the building and thoroughly searched it but allowed staff back in later in the evening after finding nothing suspicious.