News of: Thursday, March 12 2009,
This evening it became clear that a terrorist attack on large department stores in Amsterdam South-East may have been averted.
Around yesterday midnight, the Amsterdam police received a phone call about a terrorist bomb attack against the large stores in the shopping area around Arene Boulevard and the near-by IKEA store.
The man mentioned names and addresses of people who he said were going to place explosives in the shops, and also names of the targeted stores (amongst which MediaMarkt, a household electronics store, and IKEA).
The stores are among the largest and busiest stores in Amsterdam.
A concert in the Heineken Music Hall (also along Arena Boulevard) was cancelled, and the Pathé Cinema next to it was closed too.
This morning, it was decided that the stores, and some offices in the area, were to be completely evacuated and remain closed for the day.
In the course of this evening it became clear Amsterdam may have escaped a terrorist attack. During the day, 4 addresses in Amsterdam were searched, and 7 arrests were made.
All 7 persons, one woman and 6 men in the ages between 19 and 64, were Dutch people of Moroccon origin.
One of the 7 persons arrested is a family member of one of the participants in the metro bombing that happened in Madrid on March 11, 2004 - exactly 5 years ago (see Wikipedia about this attack).
Research showed that the phone call to the police was made from Brussels, Belgium, with a pre-paid phone. Several houses were also searched by the Belgian police.
At the moment the investigations are still going on, and more house searches and arrest are not excluded by the police.
It is yet unclear whether the shops in the Amsterdam Arena Area can open tomorrow.
The National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (www.nctb.nl) said it sees no reason to change the current threat level for the Netherlands. This level has been 'Substantial' for the last few months. 'Substantial' is the one but highest level. It means that a terrorist attack can occur, based on the fact the Netherlands are mentioned on terrorist web sites that are to be taken seriously.
A map of the Amsterdam Arena Area is on this page.
Update Friday March 13:
The shops in the Amsterdam Arena Area will be open today, as the police no longer deems it necessary for them to remain closed.
The 7 arrested persons remain in custody. Later on the day it will be decided whether they will be released.
More information will be published on this page, as it comes in.