"Intense" that people planned this for us, Justice Min. says about foiled terrorist attack

Ferdinand Grapperhaus
Ferdinand Grapperhaus (front, left) at the International Missions Remembrance Medal during the World Forum in The Hague. Nov. 1, 2018 Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Seven men arrested on Thursday were "already a long way" into their plans to commit a terrorist attack in the Netherlands, according to Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security. "It is very intense that there are people walking around who have this planned for us", he said to RTL Nieuws. 

"This is intense, but also good news", Grapperhaus said. "The police and the Public Prosecutor followed the men very closely. They were looking for AK47s and bomb belts, really terribly dangerous stuff."

According to the Minister, the police were absolutely not "almost too late", but that the suspects were "already a long way" into their planning for an attack. "It is good news that the services acted in this way. But it is intense that people are walking around with such bad intentions. We have to be very alert."

The seven suspects were arrested in Arnhem and Weert on Thursday afternoon. They were in an "advanced" stage of planning to commit a terrorist attack at a large event in the Netherlands, the police said. The plot involved detonating bombs at a big event, then attacking the site with AK-47 gunfire. Following that, a car bomb would be detonated. What event they targeted, was not revealed. 

The police raided homes in Rotterdam, Vlaardingen, Huissen and Arnhem on Thursday evening. 

A Kurdish family lives in the home raided on Kennedystraat in Huissen, local residents told De Gelderlander. They describe them as "really very nice". The father uses a mobility scooter. They have multiple children. The family attended a neighborhood party just last week, their neighbors said. 

In Rotterdam the police raided a home on Herastraat and one on nearby Junolaan. Two men live in the home on Herastraat, a neighbor said to newspaper AD. She described her neighbors as "jihadists, like you see on television", according to the newspaper. "They wore big robes and had long beards." They drove a silver Volkswagen and lived in the home for about a year. "They never said hello and regularly listened to loud Arabic music in their car", the neighbor said.

The home on Junolaan was occupied by a family who moved in just before the summer, witnesses said to AD. They recently had a baby, a neighbor said. The woman always wore a nikab, the man dark clothing. "They always said hello", the neighbor said. 

In Vlaardingen the police raided a first floor apartment on Paulus Buysstraat. Here too, the residents were noted for their clothing. "The man wore a djellaba an had a beard", a neighbor said to AD. According to local residents, a nikab wearing woman also stayed at the address, though she was not always there. Remarkably enough, the neighbors said that she recently had a baby. One neighbor described the resident as a friendly man. "He always played football with children in the street." The man recently exchanged his blue Nissan for a silver Volkswagen.

Residents of Paulus Buysstraat regularly saw the man working in his cellar. During the raid on Thursday evening, the police also spent a long time in the cellar, according to AD.

The National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security did not adjust the terrorism threat level in the Netherlands after these arrests.