THE HAGUE - A man armed with a fake gun disrupted Dutch television on Thursday evening when he forced his way into the building of public broadcaster NOS and demanded airtime before being overpowered by police.
The man, speaking Dutch and carrying a black pistol which police later said was a fake, could be seen pacing next to a desk in an empty studio before being arrested, in footage later shown on NOS.
The NOS building in the central city of Hilversum was evacuated. The incident interrupted NOS's 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) newscast, with a message on screen telling viewers no broadcast was "available at this time".
A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said at a press conference that the gunman, aged 19, came from the town Pijnacker near The Hague and was in police custody.
'Situation under control'
When the NOS television station came back on air it broadcast a video of the incident.
Wearing a dark suit, white shirt and dark tie, the gunman could be seen speaking calmly to a man off-camera as he claimed to represent a "hackers collective", in a short video aired on NOS.
He can be heard telling the man that he "wanted to talk about things that are of world importance".
"We were hired by intelligence services. We have heard things that call society into question," he said.
"Once my message has been sent, we'll shake hands and you'll be able to go home." He immediately dropped his weapon and raised his arms when five armed officers stormed in to restrain him, yelling at him to drop his gun.
"I dropped it, I dropped it," he replied off-screen.
A police voice was then heard saying: "The situation is under control."
Speaking live on NOS, general director Jan de Jong said that "thank God" nobody had been injured.
Police combed the building, which was declared safe shortly after 10:00 pm (2100 GMT).
The gunman also gave a threatening letter to staff, which NOS posted on its website. It said that he was "heavily armed" and not working alone.
"There are five plus 98 hackers ready for a cyber-attack," it read, also warning of "eight heavy explosives placed in the country that contain radioactive material" and would be set off if he was prevented from making a live televised announcement.
'Press focus of attention'
Hilversum mayor Pieter Broertjes said extra measures had been taken to protect media workers since two gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo earlier this month.
Despite the increased security, the young man still managed to force his way into the NOS studios, allegedly after threatening a security guard with the fake gun.
"We know that since the Paris attacks the press itself has been the focus of attention. You never know when it can happen," Broertjes said at a press conference.
Johan Bac, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said police and prosecutors had launched an investigation into the incident.
Police were considering charges of hostage-taking and illegal possession of a gun.
Dutch Justice and Safety Minister Ivo Opstelten said from initial information it seemed the man was acting on his own.
Meanwhile, local reports suggested that the man, who is believed to be a student at a technical university had recently lost his parents and was in a confused state of mind.
The worst incident to date in the sprawling media hub of Hilversum happened in May 2002 when flamboyant anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by an animal rights activist.
The murder shocked the tolerant-minded Netherlands. Volkert van der Graaf was later sentenced to 18 years in jail for Fortuyn's murder. He was released in May 2014 after serving 12 years.