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Hostage in Amsterdam drama hailed as 'hero'

By AFP - Feb 23,2022 - Last updated at Feb 23,2022

A man in camouflage clothing lies next to a police robot in a street after the hostage-taking ended in Amsterdam, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

THE HAGUE — Police hailed a hostage held by a gunman in an Apple store in Amsterdam as a hero on Wednesday after he helped end the tense, hours-long ordeal that gripped the Dutch city.

A 27-year-old man carrying a handgun and a semi-automatic weapon entered the store late Tuesday, taking a Bulgarian man hostage and demanding 200 million euros ($230 million) in cryptocurrency.

Police were called to the building at 5:30 pm after the camouflage-wearing suspect entered the store in the popular Leidseplein neighbourhood, prompting a chaotic exodus from the building.

Around 70 people fled the building and four people hid in a closet, apparently unknown to the suspect.

Five hours later, the suspect asked for water.

Footage showed the hostage bending down as the water was delivered, before running out of the building followed closely by the suspect.

The suspect was then hit by a police car before a robot checked him for explosives as he lay on the road, lit up with lasers from police snipers.

"A car from the special forces reacted very adequately and alertly," police chief Frank Paauw said in an overnight press conference, hailing the hostage's bravery.

"The hostage has played a hero role. In a few split seconds he escaped this hostage situation, otherwise it would have been an even longer night and nasty night."

'Seriously injured' 

Police later confirmed that the suspect was wearing an explosive device, but "that it was not primed" during the incident.

He was taken to hospital "seriously injured", police said, adding that a "wide-ranging" investigation had been launched.

"All options are open over a possible motive," they added, saying at least two homes around the Dutch capital had been searched.

The suspect aimed an automatic weapon at police, Paauw said, as special police units arrived at the scene Tuesday and cordoned off the area around the shop.

All Apple stores across The Netherlands were closed on Wednesday, and the site of Tuesday's hostage taking will remain closed on Thursday, the company said.

Leidseplein is popular with tourists and known for its lively bars and cafes. The area was quickly closed and the restaurants, bars and theatres were shut after the hostage taking.

The incident happened close to where well-known Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries was gunned down in broad daylight last year.

"Just when the city was about to reopen and return to normal life, violence is again emerging in the heart of Amsterdam," deputy mayor Rutger Groot Wassink said late on Tuesday.

Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius praised the quick action by the police.

"Their controlled and decisive action deserves nothing but compliments," she said in a tweet.

"It prevented worse," the minister added.

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