Police infiltrated terrorist cell planning attack in NL: report

SWAT team entering a home - 7 men arrested for planning a terrorist attack, 27 Sept 2018
SWAT team entering a home - 7 men arrested for planning a terrorist attack, 27 Sept 2018Photo: Screenshot / @PolitieLE / Twitter

The police infiltrated the group of seven suspects arrested last month for planning a major attack in the Netherlands. An undercover cop made contact with main suspect Hardi N., pretended to be an "attack planner" for terrorist organization Islamic State, and helped the group to plan their attack and arrange weapons, RTL Nieuws and NRC report.

After their arrest, the Public Prosecutor only said that "special means of investigation" had been used. Exactly what that entailed, will only be revealed during the trial against the seven men. 

According to the authorities, the suspects wanted to "make many victims" by committing an attack at a large event in the Netherlands. These "advanced" plans involved a car bomb, bomb vests and Kalashnikov AK-47's. During home searches after the arrests, the police found large quantities of raw materials for explosives. 

According to RTL Nieuws, the group initially planned to commit their attack in August, but did not have their weapons ready yet. The police intervened  few weeks later. Four of the suspects were arrested in Weert, where they were in a holiday home with the undercover cop. Listening devices were planted all over the holiday home, according to the broadcaster. The other three suspects were arrested in Arnhem.

This suspected terrorist cell formed part of a group of 25 radicalized Muslims the municipality of Arnhem has been keeping an eye on for some time as part of the PGA program - the person-oriented approach to the prevention of radicalization and extremism. According to Mayor Ahmed Marcouch, the police were able to prevent the attack because the municipality informed the authorities about worrying changes in the suspects' behavior. When the police realized that the suspects were well into planning their attack, the police decided to intervene. 

Hardi N., a 34-year-old Iraqi who lives in Arnhem and believed to be the central figure in the group, was previously convicted of trying to travel to Syria and join a terrorist organization. He is currently still in his probation period. Two other suspects were also convicted for the same offense. 

On Tuesday the court in Rotterdam remanded the seven suspects into custody for another 90 days.