Five telecom towers torched in possible 5G-conspiracy arson protest
With reporting by Byron Mühlberg.
Firefighters extinguished blazes at two radio masts in Oudenbosch, two more in Veldhoven, and another in Groningen which were likely separate arson attempts, police said. Authorities said they were working with the counterterrorism office NCTV in the investigations.
One of the five fires took place on Friday evening, with the others taking place early Saturday morning. There were also fires at telecom masts in Beesd, Liessel, Nuenen and Rotterdam last week, and the scene in Liessel had the phrase "Fuck 5G" spray-painted at the scene.
"It should be clear that we are putting all these things that have happened nationwide side-by-side," a police spokesperson told RTV Noord. "We are also looking at whether cross-connections can be made."
The fires come as telecom providers in the Netherlands are facing increased public animosity at the construction of new 5G towers over unconfirmed health concerns. In other parts of the world, recent weeks have also seen an upsurge in arson attacks on telecommunications towers, with conspiracy theorists spreading unproven allegations that new 5G technology is damaging to the environment and personal health, and can be directly linked to the rapid spread of Covid-19.
“The connections are desperately needed for hospitals and care homes, for example, and then there are those who deliberately set radio masts on fire. Incomprehensible and unacceptable,” said Rob Bongenaar to newswire ANP last week. Bongenaar represents Monet, an organization that works as intermediary between the government and mobile operators KPN, T-Mobile, and VodafoneZiggo on issues like mast placement.
The fires can also affect the ability of a mobile phone user to connect to emergency services via 1-1-2.
Groningen telephone mast arson attempt
A group of people attempted to use petrol to set fire to a radio tower on Koningsweg in the Oosterhoogebrug neighborhood of Groningen on Friday evening. The suspects were still unidentified a day later, according to police, who are seeking information relating the incident from the public.
The fire, with meters-high flames, was reported at about 9 p.m., and a community service alert was released soon after asking citizens to be on the lookout for a blue Kia Picanto. An eyewitness told a news crew at the scene that he had seen a man using a jerrycan, filled with petrol, to set fire to the mast. After he began yelling at the suspects, they allegedly fled into their vehicle, which had been idling nearby off of the road, and fled the scene.
The mast was not a 5G mast. "Although that does not matter for the investigation, because the arson itself is serious enough," the police said to RTV Noord.
Two more fires in Oudenbosch
Several hours after the Groningen incident, two more transmission masts were set alight in Oudenbosch, a small town in Noord-Brabant. The fires were reported first at about 2:30 a.m. on Bosschendijk and then just after 3 a.m. on Saturday nearby on Pagnevaartweg.
The flames licked the top of one of the masts, requiring firefighters to bring out an aerial truck to put out the fire.
— Gele Hesjes NL (@GeLeHesjesNL) April 10, 2020
Another two fires in Veldhoven
The two fires in Velhoven, Noord-Brabant took place about a kilometer or two apart from each other, and also were reported about a half-hour beginning just after 4:45 a.m. on Saturday. The investigation into both was still in full swing into the early afternoon.
Police confirmed to local news outlet BN De Stem that the two fires were likely intentional, but would not comment further due to the early stage of the investigation. The extent of the damage was not divulged.