Dozens could've died in foiled terrorist attack, Prosecutor says

The Netherlands escaped a terrorist attack that could've resulted in "dozens of victims" with the arrest of seven suspects in Arnhem and Weert in September last year, the Public Prosecutor said in court on Thursday - the first proforma hearing in this case. Only three of the six suspects still in detention were present at the hearing, AD reports.

"The suspects said goodbye to friends. These suspects were on the way to commit an attack, with dozens of victims. The Netherlands escaped a major attack", the Prosecutor said.

According to the Prosecutor, the attack was to happen at a festival. The suspects discussed how they would get ready outside the festival, and then go in and commit an attack. "They also talked about tactics: how should they do it? And what to do if one of them is tagged by the police?" They decided not to walk too close to each other, and detonate their bomb vest if they police grab them, the Prosecutor said.

The Prosecutor stressed that there was never a real danger, because the police infiltrated this group and foiled their plans. "But how different it could have been. If the string had broken with the infiltrators, we might have had dozens of victims."

The police infiltration started on May 18th last year, after intelligence service AIVD informed the police that main suspect Hardi N. was planning an attack. The police infiltrators made first contact with the group on June 5th in Arnhem. The suspects were eventually arrested in Arnhem and Weert on September 27th.

Shortly before their arrests, four of the suspects attended firearms training at a home in a holiday park in Weert, Limburg. What they did not know is that the two men who gave them training and provided the firearms, which had been made safe, were undercover police officers. The home was full of eavesdropping equipment and cameras. When the four left the park in a van, they were arrested. Three others were arrested in the Arnhem region. One of the seven suspects has since been released and did not have to appear in court on Thursday.

The suspects who did have to appear are 34-year-old Hardi N., 21-year-old Wail el A., 21-year-old Nabil B., 21-year-old Morat M., 30-year-old Shevan A. and 26-year-old Nadeem S. All of the suspects originally came from the Arnhem region, but some of them moved to Rotterdam and Vlaardingen recently. Their homes were searched after their arrests. 

An unnamed man from Arnhem, 18, was released from pre-trial custody in late November. At the time of the release, the prosecutor said there was not enough evidence to continue holding the man. He was still considered a suspect in the case and remained under investigation, as of Nov. 26.

The lawyers representing the suspect claim that the police infiltration was entrapment. "The Public Prosecutor helped to create this group. The idea to have the boys train came from the infiltrator. Thus fear of an attack was created. It would not have happened without the Public Prosecutor", the lawyers said, according to the newspaper.