|At least seven people, including the gunman, were killed at Ridderhof mall in Alphen aan den Rijn [AFP]
A man has opened fire with a machine gun at a Dutch shopping mall, killing at least six people before shooting himself through the head, police in the Netherlands said.
The shooting spree occurred at noon on Saturday in a crowded mall in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn, 38km southwest of Amsterdam.
At least sixteen people were injured, some of them critically, police said in a statement. Women and children were said to be among the dead and injured.
According to local TV station, the gunman had also shot his parents, killing his mother and wounding his father: however, the state broadcaster NOS said that this was not the case.
Amateur video published by NOS showed several of the victims and the body of the gunman lying next the register of a supermarket.
NOS also broadcast photographs taken of the scene, including one of a man killed in his car, his body hanging from the open door among shards of glass.
A police statement said the gunman randomly shot at people with a machine gun while calmly walking through the shopping mall. He later killed himself with another gun.
The gunman was identified under Dutch privacy laws as 24-year-old Tristan van der V., and it was "all but certain" he acted alone, Kitty Nooy, the district attorney, said.
She said he was a native Dutchman from Alphen who had previous run-ins with the law, including an illegal weapons possession charge that was dropped. He had a license to own five guns; however, automatic weapons are illegal in the Netherlands.
Nooy said notes had been found in both the shooter's house and his car, but she could not say whether they indicated a possible motive for the rampage and suicide - or whether they contained threats.
Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported he was a gun club member who was said to be living with his parents in a flat near the mall.
Police found a letter in his flat, saying he placed explosives at several other shopping malls in the Netherlands, De Telegraaf reported. These malls have since been evacuated.
"I heard a really loud bang, one after the other, it was a machine gun, takatakatak," an eyewitness said, adding: "We were really shocked and at first you think this can't be true. We heard people running, shots being fired. This can't be true, I didn't believe it."
|The Ridderhof mall was packed with families and children when the shooter randomly opened fire [AFP]
Hours after the shooting, residents continued to walk past the mall, some of whom appeared to be in a daze.
"It's hardly credible that our town could experience such slaughter, and on a day as beautiful as this," Bas Eenhoorn, the mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn, said, adding that he was deeply shocked and offering his condolences to relatives of the victims.
Queen Beatrix and Mark Rutte, the prime minister, issued statements saying they were shocked and sympathised with the victims and their families.
Although rare, shootings and violence are not unknown in the Netherlands. In 1999, four students and a teacher were hurt in a school shooting and in 2004, a teacher was shot dead by a student.
On April 2, another deadly shooting took place one kilometre from the Ridderhof mall, in which two people were killed and two others wounded. The reason behind that shootout is still unclear.