The Dutch capital Amsterdam may have been the intended target of a large-scale terrorist attack. Police announced on Thursday evening that seven persons “with a Moroccan background” have been arrested in the course of the day. One of those arrested was said to have family ties with a person involved in the March 11th 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid.
The arrests followed an anonymous tip-off detailing names, addresses and intended targets, which according to the police was received by midnight on Wednesday. The Dutch Secret Service AIVD was immediately alerted and it was established that the tip-off was made from the Belgian capital Brussels, using a cellphone equipped with a prepaid card.
The police said that the tip-off suggested that at least three men equipped with explosives would attack three large shops in a southeastern suburb of Amsterdam, including an outlet of the international furniture chain IKEA. All shops were immediately closed, and the entire shopping area (known as the ‘ArenA Boulevard’) was cordoned off.
When asked by journalists, the authorities declined to go into details as to the link between one of those apprehended and the 2004 Madrid bombings. Those arrested were six men and one women, ranging in age from 19 to 64. The police has conducted several house searches in the Netherlands, at least one other search is reported to have taken place in Brussels.
In earlier publications and statements, the AIVD has said that “some 10 to 15” terrorist networks are constantly monitored in The Netherlands. These are assumed to include the Moroccan GICM (linked to the Madrid attacks) and the ‘umbrella’ organisation AQIM (‘Al Qaeda in the Maghreb’).
If the information provided by the Dutch police is correct, this would be the first time in recent years that a large-scale jihadist attack has been thwarted thanks to a timely tip-off “from within”.
For background information on radicalisation and jihadist networks, see the following reports of the AIVD:
– The radical dawa in transition, The rise of Islamic neoradicalism in the Netherlands (2007)
– Violent jihad in the Netherlands (2006)
– From dawa to jihad – the various threats from radical Islam to the democratic legal order (2004)