7 suspected terrorists arrested in Netherlands

Dutch police arrest seven men suspected of plotting a "major terrorist attack" at a public event.

Elad Benari,

Amsterdam police
Amsterdam police

Dutch police on Thursday arrested seven men suspected of plotting to carry out a "major terrorist attack" at a public event using explosive belts and an AK-47 assault rifle, the public prosecutor's office said, according to AFP.

"Police arrested seven men on Thursday...suspected of being at a very advanced stage of preparation for a major terrorist attack in the Netherlands," it said in a statement.

One of the suspects wanted to kill "many victims", the statement added.

Prosecutors and investigators were "convinced that a terrorist attack was prevented" as a result of the arrests which occurred in the cities of Arnhem and Weert and which followed a months-long police operation.

Officers had placed a group of people under surveillance, a central figure being a 34-year-old man of Iraqi origin convicted in 2017 of attempting to reach territory controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, the statement added.

Those arrested by elite special anti-terrorist police teams with helicopter support ranged in age from 21 to 34.

The suspects came from Arnhem, Rotterdam and villages close to those two cities. Two others in the group also had convictions related to attempts to travel to Iraq or Syria.

"One of the men from Arnhem wanted to commit an attack with a group at a major event in the Netherlands and kill many victims, according to the Dutch Intelligence Service (AIVD)," the prosecutor's office said, according to AFP.

The target of the planned attack, which the prosecutor's office said was to have included a separate car bombing, has not been disclosed.

Earlier this month, the Netherlands raised its threat level to four on a scale that tops out at five following a double stabbing in Amsterdam’s main railway station.

Dutch police said the stabbing incident was a terror attack. The suspect in the stabbing, a 19-year-old from Afghanistan who holds a German residency permit, was shot and arrested by local police.

Thursday’s arrests come three months after two men were arrested in Rotterdam on suspicion of preparing attacks in France and in the Netherlands. Prosecutors said earlier this month they were "close" to launching their attack.

The stabbing in Amsterdam followed a Taliban call for attacks on Dutch troops after far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders organized a Prophet Mohammed cartoon competition.

Wilders, who is known for his anti-Islam rhetoric, cancelled the planned contest following death threats.