Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, who was critically wounded after being shot in broad daylight in Amsterdam last week, has died in hospital, his family announced Thursday.
A prominent investigative journalist who had been involved in a court case against one of the country's most wanted drug barons, De Vries, 64, was shot at least five times as he exited a television studio nine days ago.
He was rushed to hospital where he had been fighting for his life since.
"Peter fought until the end, but he has lost the battle," his family said in a statement to the RTL commercial broadcaster.
"He was surrounded by the people who loved him when he died," they added, saying funeral arrangements had not yet been made.
The attack on De Vries, who first won fame for his inside reporting on the 1983 kidnapping of Heineken millionaire Freddy Heineken, sparked wide-spread condemnation and concern for the safety of journalists in Europe.
"Deeply saddened by the news of Peter R. de Vries' passing," EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said.
"Investigative journalists are vital to our democracies. We must do everything we can to protect them," she tweeted.
"Peter R. de Vries' death has touched me deeply," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte added.
"It's almost impossible to comprehend," Rutte said.
De Vries' family praised him as a courageous father and husband.
"Peter lived by the courage of his convictions: On bended knee is no way to be free."
"We are incredibly proud of him, but at the same time inconsolable."
Hundreds of mourners converged on the spot where De Vries was shot, close to Amsterdam's famous Leidseplein square, where many of them laid wreaths or flowers.
"He would never describe himself as a hero. He was one of the people," said Verena Postma, a mourner.
"He always said we should never give in to criminality," she told AFP.
- Suspects arrested -
Two suspects were arrested shortly after the shooting and briefly appeared in court last Friday.
The two men, identified by Dutch media as Polish national Kamil E. aged 35 and Delano G, 21, will remain in custody for another two weeks, said the Amsterdam District Court.
Police arrested the two suspects in a car near The Hague shortly after the shooting.
Dutch media reports said Kamil E., who had been living in the small central Dutch town of Maurik, allegedly drove the getaway car, while Delano G., from Rotterdam, is believed to have pulled the trigger.
- 'Hit list' -
De Vries often appeared as a commentator or spokesman for families of crime victims, particularly in so-called "cold cases".
Most recently he acted as advisor and confidant of Nabil B., the state's key witness in the case against Ridouan Taghi, described as the country's most wanted criminal.
Taghi's organised crime group has been painted as a "well-oiled killing machine" by prosecutors, and De Vries said in a tweet in 2019 that according to police information he was on Taghi's hit list.
"We are not sure, but we are quite convinced that the attack has to do with the consultative work that Mr. De Vries has done for the key witness in a great mafia case," Thomas Bruning, general secretary of the Dutch Society of Journalists, recently told AFP.
"This assassination is a new episode in a dark series in Europe," said Christophe Deloire, secretary general for Reporters Without Borders.
"Organised crime represents a major threat to journalism in the EU," he tweeted.
Security around the case is extra-tight as in 2019, Nabil B.'s lawyer Derk Wiersum was gunned down in the street outside his house.
Despite threats to De Vries, media reports said he did not have tight security.
Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus announced that an independent investigation will be held into De Vries' security.
The investigation will be led by Tjibbe Joustra, who previously led a probe into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shot down with a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 on board, mainly Dutch.