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Dutch report Dutch report
by Euro Reporter
2011-04-11 10:36:02
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Dutch shooter had already been in trouble over weapons

Thousands of people, many carrying candles, gathered late Sunday to pay their respects to the victims of the shooting spree in the Dutch town of Alphen aan de Rijn a day earlier. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte joined families at the ceremony, next to the shopping centre De Ridderhof, where on Saturday 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis went on the rampage, killing six people and wounding at least 10 others. Prosecutors have already confirmed that Van der Vlis, who finally shot himself dead, was a member of a shooting club and held a licence to carry five firearms.

Police had even been alerted after an incident in 2003 when he accidentally shot himself in the leg with an air pistol, prosecutors said Sunday. But a case for a possible breach of the arms and ammunition act was eventually dropped. One of the mourners, Peter Dirkzwager, 46, said he had not slept since the attack. "I'm a nervous wreck," he said. "I can't believe that these kinds of things can happen here, in my town, just next to where my daughter lives," he added, a protective arm around her shoulders. "A shooting like that, you only see them in the cinema or in America -- not in the Netherlands," he said.

Van der Vlis entered the mall in the town about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of Amsterdam around lunchtime on Saturday, when it was packed with children and their parents. Witnesses said he opened fire with an automatic firearm on shoppers and merchants. The municipality said Sunday that the victims were three women aged 45, 68 and 91, and three men of 42, 49 and 80, all residents of Alphen aan den Rijn. The 42-year-old was of Syrian origin. After his shooting spree, the man then turned a gun on himself, taking the motive for the mass killing with him to the grave.

In a farewell letter to his parents made public overnight, Van der Vlis said he was unhappy and wanted to commit suicide but made no mention of killing others. Amidst the grief, many took comfort from Sunday evening's gathering. "Such solidarity, that warms the heart," said 66-year-old Bep Dongelmans with a sigh. They were united in grief she said: for those who had died and the community that had suffered such a horrible incident. As the ceremony, continued, a steady stream of people left bouquets and candles in a side street at the entrance to the shopping centre, adding to the hundreds that had been left during the day. Earlier Sunday, Dutch churches held memorial services for the victims as the media analysed the shooting, which they said was more common in countries like the United States. The NOS public broadcaster labelled the killing an "un-Dutch drama."

But disaster management professor Eelco Dykstra told the station: "This type of thing can happen anywhere." Relative to population size, Europe "is more affected than America," by mass killings, he said. Dykstra lamented The Netherlands' lack of expertise in profiling potential mass killers and detecting early warning signs. "We have many procedures and protocols on paper, but little experience in the field," he said. "Alphen aan den Rijn will never be the same," said one of about 8,200 messages on an electronic condolence register opened in the town. "Why? We are incredulous and shocked," said another. "The Netherlands lost its innocence." A photograph of the killer was circulated on Twitter on Sunday showing a man with a high forehead, short brown hair, high cheekbones and a nervous smile. Investigators combed the scene of the shooting overnight, collecting spent cartridges littered throughout the mall. The bodies of the victims were returned to their families on Sunday. Police in the eastern city of Rotterdam announced meanwhile they had arrested a 17-year-old who had announced on Twitter that he intended to copy the shooting in his neighbourhood. The De Ridderhof mall remained closed on Sunday but residents of apartments above it were allowed to return home after spending the night in a sports hall.


Iceland faces suit by British and Dutch

The British and Dutch governments are taking steps to sue Iceland in order to claw back the billions of Euros they paid to depositors in their countries after Icelandic banks collapsed in 2008. The prospect of legal action, likely to take more than a year to resolve in an international court, comes after Iceland’s voters this weekend rejected a deal for the country to repay Britain and the Netherlands over 30 years starting in 2016. It also extends a bitter saga that began in 2008 when Iceland’s overstretched banks failed. With assets eight times the country’s gross domestic product, the government was in no position to bail them out as some European countries, like Ireland and Britain, did for their own banks. 

As a result, the 400,000 depositors in Britain and the Netherlands, who had been lured by the high interest rates provided by Icelandic banks, were paid back by their own governments. Those countries are now seeking to recover that payout, which approached 4 billion Euros ($5.8 billion).  The deal submitted to the voters, approved by the Icelandic Parliament in February, carried more favourable terms for Iceland than an earlier accord, modified in hopes of winning voter backing.

The government of Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir had pushed hard for approval, arguing that Iceland, in the midst of financial rescue program backed by the International Monetary Fund, needed to put the issue behind it if it hoped to re-enter international financial markets and join the European Union. But after a devastating recession and with animosity toward bankers still running high, Iceland’s voters were not swayed. With close to 90 percent of the vote counted, 59 percent had voted no.


Holland to ban Jewish slaughter

The Dutch parliament is planning to ban the Jewish ritual slaughter, a move that is drawing criticism from Jewish and Muslim groups in the country. “I can speak for the Dutch Jewish Community and I think for the wider Jewish world, that this law raises grave concerns about infringements on religious freedom,” Ruben Vis, spokesman for the Netherlands’ NIK, an umbrella of Jewish organizations, said, The Israel National News reported.

A proposal has been submitted by a pro-animal party, the Party of Animals, to ban the Jewish slaughter (shechita) on grounds that it causes unnecessary pain to the animal. According to the Jewish ritual, the animal is slaughtered by a sharp blade.

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