THE HAGUE, Feb 24 — A 27-year-old man who held several people hostage at an Apple store on a busy Amsterdam square has died in hospital from his injuries, Dutch prosecutors said late Wednesday.

The man, said to be a resident of the Dutch capital, entered the Apple store on Leidseplein armed with two guns, sparking a tense five-hour-long ordeal on Tuesday.

The stand-off ended when the suspect was hit by a police car as he chased his last hostage who made a desperate break for freedom and ran out of the store.

“I can confirm that the man has died in hospital this evening,” public prosecution service spokesman Franklin Wattimena said.

“More than that, we cannot say, but the investigation continues,” he told AFP.

Police later hailed the hostage who helped to end the tense ordeal that gripped the city centre as a hero.

Dozens of police officers rushed to the building at 5:30pm on Tuesday after the camouflage-wearing suspect entered the store in the popular Leidseplein neighbourhood, prompting a chaotic exodus from the building.

The suspect took a Bulgarian man hostage and demanded €200 million (RM946 million) in cryptocurrency, as well as a free passage out of the city.   

Around 70 people fled the building and four people hid in a closet, apparently unknown to the suspect.

‘Hero role’

Five hours later, the suspect asked for water.  

Footage showed the hostage bending down as the water was delivered, before running out of the building followed closely by the suspect. 

The suspect was then sent sprawling by a police vehicle before a robot checked him for explosives as he lay on the road, lit up with laser sights from police snipers. 

“A car from the special forces reacted very adequately and alertly,” police chief Frank Paauw said in an overnight press conference, hailing the hostage’s bravery. 

“The hostage has played a hero role. In a few split seconds he escaped this hostage situation, otherwise it would have been an even longer night — and nasty night.”

Police later confirmed that the suspect was wearing an explosive device, but “that it was not primed” during the incident.

He was taken to hospital “seriously injured”, police said, adding that a “wide-ranging” investigation had been launched. 

“All options are open over a possible motive,” they added, saying at least two homes around the Dutch capital had been searched.

Amsterdam-based daily newspaper Het Parool identified the man as Abdel Rahman A., a grocery delivery worker that has had previous brushes with the law.

However, his motive for besieging the Apple store remained unclear, Dutch media reports said.

‘Prevented worse’

The suspect aimed an automatic weapon at officers, Paauw said, as special police units arrived at the scene Tuesday and cordoned off the area around the shop. 

All Apple stores across the Netherlands were closed Wednesday, and the site of Tuesday’s hostage taking will remain closed Thursday, the company said.

Leidseplein is popular with tourists and known for its lively bars and cafes. The area was quickly closed and the restaurants, bars and theatres were shut after the hostage taking.

The incident happened close to where well-known Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries was gunned down in broad daylight last year.

“Just when the city was about to reopen and return to normal life, violence is again emerging in the heart of Amsterdam,” deputy mayor Rutger Groot Wassink said late on Tuesday.

Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius praised the quick action by the police.

“Their controlled and decisive action deserves nothing but compliments,” she said in a tweet.

“It prevented worse,” the minister added. — AFP