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Netherlands Mall Shooting

ALPHEN AAN DEN RIJN, Netherlands — A gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon at a crowded shopping mall outside Amsterdam on Saturday, leaving at least six people dead and wounding 11 others, Dutch officials said.

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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 kilometers) southwest of Amsterdam.

Four of the wounded were in critical condition, five were in serious condition and at least two others were slightly wounded, Eenhoorn said.

A witness identified as Maart Verbeek told state broadcaster NOS the attacker had a machine gun and appeared to be shooting at random.

“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.”

Hours after the shooting, residents continued to walk past the mall, some of whom appeared to be in a daze.

“You hear about this sort of thing happening at American schools and you think that’s a long way away,” said Rob Kuipers, 50, a project manager. “Now it’s happened here in the Netherlands.”

Investigators were trying to determine the shooter’s identity, the mayor said. Witnesses said he had long blond hair, appeared to be about 25 years old, and wore a leather jacket with camouflage pants.

A resident who lives near the mall gave his name as Marijn said the shooting went on for several minutes. When he went to see whether friends working at the mall were OK, he saw the shooter lying dead in front of a grocery store.

“There was glass everywhere,” the resident said. “He was just shooting everywhere as if it were the Wild West.”

With his voice choking at times, Eenhoorn described the incident as a “disaster of unparalleled proportions” for Alphen, known as a quiet suburb, and it was all the more shocking because it took place on one of the first sunny days of spring.

“Under these circumstances, with many people shopping at the Ridderhof today, including parents with children, it’s an incomprehensible situation,” he said.

Although rare, shootings and violence are not unknown in the Netherlands. Among other incidents, in 1999, four students and a teacher were hurt in a school shooting and in 2004, a teacher was shot dead by a student.

The country has also seen two assassinations in the past decade, the 2002 killing of right wing politician Pim Fortuyn by an animal rights activist and the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist.

In 2009, a loner drove his car into a group of bystanders during a royal parade, killing eight and wounding 10.

Gun permits are difficult to obtain, but illegal automatic weapons and ammunition are frequently seized during drug busts.

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