Dutch foil possible attack concert on ‘concrete’ tip-off from Spain
ROTTERDAMDutch police on Aug. 24 stepped up a probe into a planned terror attack against a Rotterdam concert by a U.S. rock band, having received a "concrete" tip-off from Spanish authorities.
“There was concrete information from the Spanish police that an attack would be committed on that date, at this place and against this rock band," the port city's police chief Frank Paauw told reporters.
Spain was rocked last week by twin vehicle attacks which killed 15 people and wounded 120, but it remained unclear whether the tip-off to the Dutch came before or after Spanish police began investigating the incidents.
After cancelling a planned concert by the Californian band Allah-Las in Rotterdam, Dutch police swooped on a house in the southern Brabant region before dawn Aug. 24 "and arrested a 22-year-old man regarding the terror threat Aug. 23 evening in Rotterdam.”
They also carried out "an extensive search" of the premises, police said in a statement.
But there were growing doubts that another man, arrested late Aug. 23 in the port driving a van with Spanish licence plates and carrying gas canisters close to the Maassilo concert hall, was linked to the terror threat.
The van driver, a mechanic who "appeared to be under the influence of an alcoholic substance, was detained and transferred to a police facility" on Aug. 23, police said, adding officers had found a "couple of gas canisters" in his van.
"His house was searched last night and no link with the terror threat was found. The man is still detained and will be questioned when sober," police said in an English statement.
While Spanish police appeared to rule the man out of the inquiry, Paauw said his team were still investigating but it seemed likely “the man had had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said it was not clear whether the tip-off from Spain and the detection of the van were connected. He warned against “swift conclusions” while noting the white van had Spanish licence plates and had been flagged for circling near the concert venue.
“It would be wrong at this moment to pile up these facts and conclude ... there was a plan to attack with gas bottles,” Aboutaleb told a news conference late on Aug. 23.
The news follows a suicide bombing of a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande in the English city of Manchester in May which killed 22 people.
And in November 2015, 130 people were killed in Paris when as part of a series of attacks jihadists hit the Bataclan concert hall where U.S. rock band Eagles of Death Metal were playing.
Spanish police said Aug. 24 they had identified the remains of the last suspected member of the cell believed to have carried out the Aug. 17 attacks in northeastern Spain.
On Aug. 23 Dutch authorities decided to cancel the Allah-Las concert after the tip-off from Spanish police around 5:30 pm.
The four-piece band, from Los Angeles, was escorted from the concert hall by police wearing bullet-proof vests.
In a statement sent to AFP, they said they were "unharmed and are very grateful to the Rotterdam police and other responsible agencies for detecting the potential threat before anyone was hurt.”