A man who entered the Netherlands public broadcaster NOS carrying a gun was arrested on camera Thursday evening after taking a security guard hostage and demanding air time at the start of the main evening news broadcast.
After taking a hostage at the network's Mediapark facilities in the city of Hilversum, southeast of Amsterdam, the assailant, identified as 19-year old Tarik Zahzah, handed over a letter stating there were bombs in the building, and said he was heavily armed. Police revealed later today that the gun was a fake.
Technicians in the studio's control room said they sounded the alarm and led both the gunman and the guard to a different empty studio, which is used only for daytime broadcasts. One employee also pressed record on one of the cameras, so that the scene that unfolded was captured.
Zahzah can be heard talking to the guard, who said he's nervous and wants to go home. The gunman then asks him to go sit somewhere else, and implies he fears a gun fight and that the guard would be in the way.
"They're probably standing outside already," he said. "The things I'm about to say here are of global importance."
Zahzah was quickly identified by friends online, and because of a distinctive mole on his left cheek.
In the video, Zahzah claimed to be part of a hackers collective.
"We have been hired by intelligence agencies," Zahzah said. "And we have discovered things that call into question things in our society."
After he promised he would let the security guard leave after his speech, the video shows him becoming restless. "This is taking too long," he said.
The two then started a short discussion about if they were live on air or not. Zahzah soon realized the police were already outside. Once officers stormed in, Zazah dropped the weapon, and the officers reported back that "the suspect is apprehended, situation under control."
The letter the gunman handed to the guard to pass on to others stated: "We have been taken hostage by heavily armed men. There are more of them throughout the country and they have 98 hackers ready to launch a cyber attack."
All NOS employees were evacuated immediately, and were forbidden to tweet about the incident, according to an internal email. NPO1, Holland's most-watched channel, simply broadcast a title card that said, "because of circumstances, there is no broadcast," at the moment when the news broadcast would regularly begin.
This created the strange situation that the country's go-to news service was unable to explain the unfolding hostage situation on it's own premises. Private competitor RTL Nieuws actually had the gunman's letter and footage of the raid up before NOS did.
The NOS building is 48 miles from Amsterdam. The facility was reinforced with extra security after Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered there in 2001. Although security may have eased since then, it is still unknown how Zazah gained access to the NOS building, which requires security passes and identification to access.
According to Hilversum's mayor, Pieter Broertjes, the attacks in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo offices had prompted extra measures in the past few weeks.
"Considering the fact that the police acted very quickly, we can tell that we were well-prepared," said Broerties.
According to Dutch newspaper NRC, his house in the town of Pijnacker was raided by police shortly after the incident as authorities began collecting evidence.
At a press conference, public prosecutor Johan Bac said the suspect was at the Hilversum police station, and is suspected of illegal apprehension of a person, threat of harm, and the illegal possession of a firearm.