AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A 19-year-old Dutchman with a pistol forced his way into the studios of the national broadcaster NOS on Thursday demanding to be allowed to go on air, but was quickly arrested, officials said.
Wearing a black suit and tie, the man entered the studio after threatening a guard with a pistol, witnesses said. It was unclear how he passed through security, which was increased after the attacks in Paris earlier this month.
Footage aired on Dutch TV showed the man pacing in the studio with a black pistol behind his back.
He had intended to speak to the country on the most popular evening news broadcast, but was led to an empty studio by a quick-thinking security guard.
“This is taking too long,” the man said. Then police stormed into the studio yelling, “Drop it! Drop it! And get on your knees!”. He dropped the gun, saying, “I dropped it. It’s dropped”, and the police put handcuffs on him and took him away.
The man lives in the central Dutch town of Pijnacker, near the university town Delft, officials said, declining to provide details. They refused to comment on media reports that he was a student whose parents had recently died and that he was not on a watchlist of Islamist militants.
He was being questioned and could be charged with kidnapping, possession of a firearm and threatening people with a weapon, prosecutor Johan Bac said at a press conference.
No one was hurt, but the NOS television broadcaster cancelled its two main nightly newscasts.
The man’s motive was unclear; the NOS footage showed him saying, “The things that are going to be said (pause) those are very large world affairs. We were hired by the security service.”
Police special forces swept the building for explosives and found nothing, police spokesman Christine Scholts said.
“We are currently investigating who this man is and what he wants,” she said. The police were looking into claims that he had accomplices around the country with explosives.
“He took the security guard hostage and said he wanted air time. If they didn’t give it to him, he said there would be bombs in different places in the Netherlands that would explode if he didn’t get time on TV,” Scholts said.
The threats were reportedly also contained in a letter that the man took to the studio, a purported copy of which was aired by the RTL news channel.
“Realise that I am not on my own,” it said. “Furthermore, eight high explosives have been planted that contain radioactive material. If you don’t take me to studio 8 to make my broadcast, we will be forced to step into action.”
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the letter.
Dutch Minister for Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten told the ANP national news agency the man appeared to have acted alone.
Security has been tightened across Europe since jihadist attacks on the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris this month, as well as the killing of two gunmen in Belgium during raids on an Islamist group that authorities said were planning to attack police.
NOS television said the gunman appeared to be a student who had recently lost both parents. It also said he did not figure on security services’ lists of suspected Islamist militants.
NOS produces the most widely watched television newscast in the Netherlands and is based in the main national broadcast park in Hilversum.
Security has been tight there since populist politician Pim Fortuyn was shot outside a studio in 2002.
As the gunman entered the studios on Thursday, NOS’s main news channel displayed a message that read, “In connection with circumstances, no broadcast is available at this time.”
Writing by Anthony Deutsch. Editing by Kevin Liffey, Susan Fenton, Toni Reinhold