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Seven arrested as police foil 'major terrorist attack' planned for public event in the Netherlands

Police had yet to identify the target of the planned attack.

Armed police prepare for an operation in a residential area in Arnhem, Netherlands
Armed police prepare for an operation in a residential area in Arnhem, Netherlands
Image: AP

SEVEN MEN HAVE been arrested by Dutch police in the cities of Arnhem and Weert over a suspected plan to carry out a “major terrorist attack”.

The Dutch public prosecutor’s office revealed that the men planned to use explosive belts and an AK-47 assault rifle to kill “many victims” at a public event in the country.

“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.

Prosecutors and investigators were “convinced that a terrorist attack was prevented” as a result of the arrests, which followed a months-long police operation.

Officers had placed a group of people under surveillance, including a 34-year-old man of Iraqi origin convicted in 2017 of attempting to reach territory controlled by the Islamic State group.

The arrests were made by elite special anti-terrorist police teams with helicopter support, and the seven men ranged in age from 21 to 34.

The suspects came from Arnhem, the port city of 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.

Many victims

“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.

Police had yet to identify the target of the planned attack, which the prosecutor’s office said was suspected to have included a separate car bombing.

The suspects, who investigators said were in possession of small arms when they were detained, are expected to appear in court in Rotterdam on Friday.

“They were seeking AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, explosive belts and raw materials with which to make other bombs,” investigators said.

The arrests came 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, while there has been no mention of what the target in France might have been.

The likelihood of a terror attack in the Netherlands ”remained substantial”, the Dutch anti-terror agency NCTV said last week, with terror threat levels remaining at level four out of five.

© – AFP 2018

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