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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 18:55 GMT
Skyscraper gunman commits suicide
The Rembrandt Tower, and a policeman helping to seal it off
Hundreds were trapped in Amsterdam's tallest building
A mentally-ill gunman apparently unhappy with widescreen televisions has shot himself dead in an Amsterdam office building after a seven-hour siege.

He objected to broadband widescreen television and wanted this to be known to the people

Leo De Wit
Prosecutor's spokesman
The 59-year-old psychiatric patient, armed with two guns and possibly explosives, had stormed into the Rembrandt Tower just as the working day began on Monday.

At one stage he had as many as 18 people hostage on the fourth floor of the 32-storey tower, which houses several large financial firms, while 200 others remained trapped as police sought to negotiate with the man.

The ordeal ended at about 1630 (1530 GMT), when the man shot himself in the head after asking police for a break in negotiations.

Nobody else is reported to have been hurt.

Wrong building

Early in the day the Dutch state broadcaster, NOS, said it had received a faxed statement from the gunman, who said he was "demonstrating against the manipulative sellers of widescreen television".

Map of Amsterdam
A spokesman, quoting the fax, said he was angry that new television screens were being promoted as "better looking than normal screens".

He appears to have been particularly angry with Philips Electronics, which had its head office in the tower until last July.

After entering the building, he succeeded in getting protest posters put up in some of the windows in the tower. They read "We mislead", and "We lie" - thought to be a allusion to the company's advertising slogan, "We make things better".

Rembrandt Tower firms
Merrill Lynch
Lehman Brothers
ING bank group - 200 workers
Rabo Securities - 250 workers
Thai consulate

Another sign read "Kleisterlees Lies", referring to the company's chairman, Gerard Kleisterlee.

During the day, the man admitted he had entered the wrong building, said Leo de Wit, spokesman for the Amsterdam prosecutor's office.

He added that the suicide, which occurred in a toilet, came as a complete surprise to the negotiators.

The man was carrying a semi-automatic weapon and a handgun. Police said they are still investigating whether he was carrying explosives inside a suitcase.

Ambulance and fired brigade staff were on standby all day, and trains were diverted around neighbouring Amstel station.

Protest banners posted on the windows of the Rembrandt Tower
Protest banners reached the 17th floor
The underground railway station was closed, and a school next door was evacuated.

Workers inside the building said they were initially worried when they realised it was the six-month anniversary of the 11 September attacks, given that there were a number of US companies and banks inside.

"The atmosphere was pretty tense at the beginning," one told the Reuters news agency.

During the negotiations with the police, the man released seven of his hostages - five women and two men.

The 11 remaining hostages left the building after the man shot himself. Mr De Wit said they were "fine", and had been taken to a nearby police station for questioning.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Netherlands
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