Two US citizens hurt in Dutch ‘terrorist’ knife attack
Police declined to comment whether there was a link between Friday’s attack and a competition to caricature the Prophet Mohammad
Dutch officials on Saturday said a knife-wielding attacker who wounded two US citizens at Amsterdam Central Station a day before “had a terrorist motive”.
“Following an initial statement by the suspect it has emerged that the man had a terrorist motive,” Amsterdam City Hall said in a statement after police had questioned the suspect.
US ambassador Pete Hoekstra earlier confirmed both the victims, who were rushed to hospital after Friday’s attack, were American citizens. The pair are in a satisfactory condition, officials said.
Panic broke out at the Dutch capital’s main station soon after midday Friday when the suspect stabbed two bystanders before he was shot and wounded by officers.
Police later identified the man as a 19-year-old Afghan with a German residency permit. His name was released by Dutch authorities as “Jawed S.”.
Amsterdam City Hall said the suspect was being held in hospital under police guard and would briefly appear in court Monday behind closed doors.
Dutch authorities said they were in close contact with their German counterparts who raided the suspect’s home on Saturday at an unknown location in Germany.
“Among other things, several data carriers have been confiscated and are being investigated,” they said.
Initial investigations also indicated the man had not specifically targeted the Americans – suggesting a random attack.
Amsterdam police spokesman Frans Zuiderhoek had already told AFP late Friday that authorities were “seriously taking into account that there was a terrorist motive”.
Further details of the two Americans injured were not immediately known, although one was reported to be a young man.
Hoekstra said the US is ready to “assist as appropriate, with our main priority as always being the safety and well-being of US citizens in the country”.
The attack comes a day after an announcement by Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders that he was cancelling moves to stage a cartoon competition to caricature the Prophet Mohammad, a plan that had angered many Muslims.
Witnesses described scenes of panic on Friday as gunshots rang out and thousands of commuters and tourists were evacuated from the rail terminus soon after midday.
One witness said he saw a young man “stumble” into his flower shop at the station with a bleeding wound to his hand.
“Soon afterwards I heard some shots and I know something has gone badly wrong,” Richard Snelders told the ANP news agency. A while later, he saw another man lying on the ground nearby, he said.
“The first thing that comes up in your mind is that it’s a terror attack. After all, you are at Amsterdam Central Station. There was a lot of panic,” Snelders said.
Police declined to comment when asked whether there was a possible link between Friday’s attack and the cartoon competition.
Wilders’ controversial announcement has seen angry protests, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement, calling on Muslims to attack Dutch troops and calling Wilders’ plan “a hostile act by this country (the Netherlands) against all Muslims”.
Earlier this week, police arrested another man – believed to be Pakistani – at The Hague’s Central Station after he posted a film on Facebook saying he was planning to assassinate the blond-haired Wilders, well known for his virulent anti-Islamic views.
Wilders on Thursday said he was nixing plans to stage the competition to “avoid the risk of making people victims of Islamist violence”.
The Netherlands has so far been spared from the slew of terror attacks which have rocked its closest European neighbours in the past few years.
But amid a number of scares and reports that people linked to some of those attacks may have crossed briefly into the country, top Dutch security and intelligence officials have stressed that the threat level is substantial.
In the most serious incident involving a terror attack, outspoken Dutch anti-Islam film director Theo van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death in 2004 in Amsterdam by a man with ties to a Dutch Islamist terror network.
Around 250,000 people travel through Central Station every day, according to statistics provided by the Amsterdam.info online travel guide.