Dutch police make second arrest linked to possible terror plot

Counterterror officer says plot is not related to Barcelona-area attacks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 4:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 9:12pm

Dutch police have stepped up an investigation into a possible terror threat, arresting another man after cancelling a Rotterdam concert by a US rock group following a tip-off from Spanish authorities.

The 22-year-old was arrested in a predawn raid on a house in the Brabant region, where there was “an extensive search”, police said in a statement, adding that the driver of a van with Spanish plates held late on Wednesday also remained in custody.

The arrests come after twin vehicle attacks in Spain last week killed 15 people, and were claimed by Islamic State.

“A 22-year-old man from Brabant was arrested Thursday morning in the investigation into a terrorist threat Wednesday evening in Rotterdam,” Dutch ­police said in a statement.

It was the second arrest after the van driver was held hours after officials cancelled a concert planned by Californian rock group Allah-Las.

The driver, who “appeared to be under the influence of an ­alcoholic substance, was detained and transferred to a police facility”, police said, adding that officers had found a “couple of gas canisters” in his van.

But Dutch authorities have cautioned there may be no link between the van driver and the terror tip-off from Spanish police.

Witness Usama Mohamed said he watched events unfold near the Maassilo concert hall, after the van was spotted in a nearby street.

“What I saw was a vehicle with lots of gas cylinders inside,” he said. “After what happened in Barcelona, I think the police really took the situation seriously and didn’t want to take any risks in Rotterdam.”

Spanish police carried out new raids on Wednesday after vehicles ploughed into pedestrians, killing more than a dozen on Barcelona’s busy Las Ramblas boulevard and a seaside ­promenade in the resort town of Cambrils last week.

Dutch authorities also decided to cancel the concert after a tip-off from Spanish police around 5.30pm.

“I was warned by telephone that we had received a threat which had implications for an American concert at the Maassilo in Rotterdam,” the city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, told reporters. “This signal came from the Spanish police to the Dutch police.”

The four-piece band from Los Angeles was escorted from the venue by police wearing bulletproof vests. In a statement, the members said they were “very grateful to the Rotterdam ­police and other responsible agencies for detecting the potential threat before anyone was hurt”.

In an interview with The Guardian last year, they said they receive emails from Muslims offended by their name, but “that absolutely wasn’t our intention”. They said they used Allah because they wanted something “holy sounding”. “We’ve had the name so long I don’t think we can change it. That wouldn’t work.”