Dutch police arrest 12 Somali terror suspects

Saturday, December 25, 2010

ROTTERDAM - Police have arrested 12 Somali men suspected of planning a terrorist attack in the Netherlands, Dutch public prosecutors said Saturday.

The arrests took place Friday evening in the port city of Rotterdam after the Dutch secret service, the AIVD, received concrete evidence of the men’s plans, the public prosecutor said.

Islamic extremists have called for acts of violence in the Netherlands over the past few months, as revenge for the anti-Islamic declarations of the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Several of the Somali suspects had acquired Dutch citizenship, a police spokesman said. Six of the 12 men, all aged between 19 and 48, lived in Rotterdam. Five had no fixed address and one had travelled to the Netherlands from Denmark.

In a series of coordinated raids, special agents had searched four flats, two hotel rooms and a call shop. However, they did not find any weapons or explosives, a spokesman for the authorities said.

The country’s terror alert level, which has long been at the second of four stages, went unchanged. The arrests had averted any acute threat, a spokesman for the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism explained.

Officials did not disclose when and where the Somalis were allegedly planning to strike. The suspects were still being interrogated Saturday. Their lawyers have been banned from making statements to the media until further notice.

An Islamic cleric notorious for his hate sermons had made headlines in September when he called on Muslims in the Netherlands to behead Wilders. Lebanese-Australian cleric Feiz Muhammed accused Wilders of insulting Muslims and their prophet, media reports said.

Wilders has angered Muslims across the world with statements comparing the Quran to German dictator Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, describing Islam as a “fascist ideology” and calling the prophet Mohammed a “barbarian, mass murderer and paedophile”.

Muhammed’s death threat triggered bad memories in the Netherlands of the murder of film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. A Muslim fanatic shot van Gogh, who was a vehement critic of Islam, in broad daylight and then slit his throat in front of shocked bystanders.

Filed under: Terrorism

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