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Anger follows Fortuyn shooting

Police took an unidentified suspect into custody near the scene of the shooting.
Police took an unidentified suspect into custody near the scene of the shooting.  

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- Police have clashed with supporters of right-wing Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, shot dead nine days before polls in which his party was expected to make big gains.

The Dutch cabinet will decide on Tuesday whether to postpone the May 15 elections.

Fortuyn, 54, was shot in the head and chest at least three times at close range at 6 p.m. Monday as he was leaving a radio station in Hilversum, 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Amsterdam.

Police said they arrested a suspect -- a Dutch citizen -- a short time later near where the killing happened.

"We're not yet completely sure, but the most probable [explanation] is that the killer is a psycho," a police source said.

"We think he had heard Fortuyn on the radio in a long programme and had gone to the exit of the studio to wait and shot him. It seems that he was alone."

Profile: Gay right-winger who angered Muslims 
Politicians lament Fortuyn's death 

The gunman appeared to have acted on impulse and without much planning, police said.

"I feel like they killed my country today," drama student Alexei Genevois told Reuters in The Hague, where crowds brandishing photos of Fortuyn screamed abuse against a political establishment some blamed for the murder.

"This is an attack on democracy," said one Rotterdam woman. "They all killed him," she said of the media and politicians.

Environment Minister and Labor party politician Jan Pronk said: "This is, I believe, the first political murder in the history of Dutch democracy."

Hans Dijkstal of the free-market VVD, another coalition party, said: "Dutch democracy has lost its innocence. I did not think this was possible in the Netherlands."

Fortuyn's death was officially announced by Prime Minister Wim Kok.

"After this assassination, Pim Fortuyn is gone," Kok said in The Hague after breaking off a campaign engagement. "This is a deep tragedy. I am shocked. This is a deep tragedy for those close to him, for his loved ones and for our country and our democracy." (More reaction)

According to journalist Sander Van Hoorn, "Fortuyn was shot in the head, just behind his left ear, and in his neck and chest.

"Police have been searching for a single gunman who was wearing a baseball cap. A police helicopter joined the search.

"People witnessed the gunman open fire and four people are reported to have chased after him."

Officers pin the suspect down before taking him into custody.
Officers pin the suspect down before taking him into custody.  

Fortuyn's spokesman Mat Herben told Reuters the politician had received regular death threats. Most Dutch political leaders travel without bodyguards, often using public transport. The only exceptions were Kok, as head of government.

Fortuyn, however, had his own bodyguards and his party headquarters in Rotterdam were always guarded. He had been involved in minor scuffles with protesters in the past. (Profile)

Opinion polls had shown that Fortuyn's De Lijst Fortuyn party, running on an anti-immigration platform, was on course to win about 15 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections. With that kind of showing, Fortuyn could have been invited to join the coalition government.

Fortuyn, an openly gay former TV analyst, was a plain-speaking politician who targeted fears over immigration. Saying that the Netherlands was "full up," he criticized Muslims for not embracing Dutch culture.

crime scene
Emergency workers attempt to revive Fortuyn after the shooting.  

He also said that being gay, he would be persecuted in a Muslim country.

Fortuyn's rise mirrors a right-wing resurgence in several European countries, lately highlighted by Jean-Marie Le Pen's surprise showing in the first round of French presidential elections. Le Pen was soundly defeated in Sunday's runoff vote by incumbent Jacques Chirac.

A protester outside the Dutch parliament after the shooting Monday said Pim represented the common worker.

"Pim was not an extremist. He wanted to do something for the working class to save us from taxes and do something for the normal people and not for the immigrants," truck driver Leslie Gonggeyp told Reuters.

Leefbaar Nederland stunned the Netherlands in March when it won 35 percent of the vote for city council seats in Rotterdam, the second-largest city.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair cancelled a visit to the Netherlands due to begin on Tuesday. "Whatever feelings political figures arouse, the ballot box is the place to express them," Blair said.

-- CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley contributed to this story.




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