x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Amsterdam thwarts 'terror threat'

Dutch police arrest seven people and seal off a major shopping street in Amsterdam following the threat.

Police give directions to shoppers after sealing off a shopping street in Amsterdam.
Police give directions to shoppers after sealing off a shopping street in Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM // Dutch police say they arrested seven people on suspicion of preparing a "terrorist" attack in Amsterdam including a relative of one of the attackers who died in the 2004 bombings in Madrid. Earlier on Thursday, Dutch authorities sealed off a major Amsterdam shopping street as a result of the threat, while police conducted house searches. District Attorney Herman Bolhaar said those arrested include six men and one woman, aged 19-64. All are Dutch nationals of Moroccan ancestry and none are believed to have a history of terrorist involvement.

The Dutch police commissioner, Bernard Welten, told a news conference in the country's capital that police received a telephone call on Wednesday night "warning that three men were planning to carry out an attack with explosives in Amsterdam." The call came from Brussels and named home furnishing retailers Ikea among other large stores to be targeted. Following up on the information, police on Thursday morning prevented dozens of shops, a movie theatre and the Ikea store from opening their doors to the public "to prevent any explosives from entering," said Mr Welten.

Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen said that Wednesday's call had warned of "an action with the aim of claiming casualties in busy places. "We couldn't take any risks," he said about the closure of shops, adding that "we do not yet have sufficient information to lift" the security measures. The officials would not say anything about the caller's motives or the veracity of the threat. A police statement earlier said the threat, which it said "should be taken seriously" had caused an appearance by American band The Killers at the Heineken Music Hall to be postponed.

Dozens of shops remained closed throughout the day. Most had not yet opened their doors in the morning when the area was closed off. Several employees were evacuated. Wim Kok, a spokesman for the office of the national antiterrorism coordinator, said there was no reason to raise the terror alert. Janna Langlere, a promoter for the Arena Boulevard affected by the closure, said the threat was received by Ikea in the morning, apparently aimed at all "megastores."

"This is a lost business day. We have had telephone calls about claims for damages [by shop owners], and it is being looked into." *AFP and AP