Hostage situation at Amsterdam Apple Store; Leidseplein evacuated
Update 11 p.m.: When a hostage in the building ran outside, the alleged hostage-taker chased after him. The suspect was then hit hard by an unmarked police vehicle. NL Times covered this story in a separate report.
Update 8:40 p.m.: Several people reportedly trapped in the Apple Store were reportedly freed. NL Times reported on this update in a separate article.
A large number of police officers were dispatched to the Apple Store on the Leidseplein in Amsterdam amid reports of a violent incident there Tuesday evening. Authorities did not immediately confirm reports that two suspects were keeping at least one person hostage in the store, but later acknowledged that a hostage situation was in progress there. Police asked newswire ANP not to report on the number of people in the store out of safety concerns; multiple media outlets reported that several employees and customers had barricaded themselves in a locked room above the store.
"There is someone with a firearm in/near the shop in question, the police are on site with many (specialist) units to get the situation under control," police said shortly before 7 p.m. Several witnesses told local broadcaster AT5 that they heard shots fired in the area. “Regarding the safety of the people involved in the hostage situation at the Apple Store at Leidseplein, we would like to ask all public to stay away from the site so the police can focus on dealing with the situation.
Videos and photographs from the scene were widely circulated on social media. The images appeared to show a man in the store waving a gun around. He had his arm around the neck of another man whose hands were behind his back, possibly holding a large bag. The man with the gun pulled the apparent victim to the front door of the store, kicked the door open, then yelled outside.
Two men in balaclavas may have entered the Apple Store and taken someone hostage, Parool reported. A witness told the newspaper that two men walked out of the store at around 6 p.m., but when they saw the police, one of them used his arm to grab another person. He then held a gun to that person's head. All three were reportedly still in the store.
"I had to run for my life," one witness told AT5. "I was standing on the crosswalk opposite the Apple Store. An employee ran out in panic with a walkie-talkie yelling, 'Robbery!.' At that moment, it hadn't yet clicked for me," the witness continued. "And that's when I heard gunshots inside."
As the situation developed, police said they were "reluctant to provide information" so that it does not interfere with their work at the scene. At one point, several police officers were spotted across the street from the store with their guns drawn.
Dispatchers first sent emergency workers to the Leidseplein at about 5:45 p.m. An ambulance was sent to the scene soon after. "Due to a report at a shop on Leidseplein, police are now deployed there," Amsterdam police confirmed less than 30 minutes later.
A police helicopter was also seen circling the area. Authorities evacuated the square. People inside cafes and other businesses were ordered to remain inside. The police also cordoned off a large area surrounding the popular city center entertainment district.
Specialist police tactical teams also arrived on scene, as well as officers from the Marechaussee, a branch of the Dutch military.