The woman who tipped off Amsterdam police last Wednesday evening about an impending terrorist attack was aware of details about the Madrid bombings that had not been made public. Amsterdam’s Chief Police Commissioner Bernard Welten told de Volkskrant daily that the phone call lasted about ten minutes and almost took on the character of a cross-examination.
Using a pre-paid cellphone and calling from Brussels, the caller, whose identity is unknown, told police exactly in which shops on and near the Arena Boulevard explosives would be detonated. She spelt out the names of the three men involved, Mr Welten said.
The police judged the call to be credible because of the little-known details the woman gave about the 2004 Madrid train bombings which killed 191 people and because of the symbolism of the date, exactly five years after those attacks.
Following the warning, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen, Public Prosecutor Herman Bolhaar and Commissioner Welten gave the green light for a massive security operation by police forces, involving the closing of all shops along the Arena Boulevard near the Ajax football stadium, as well as some big stores nearby, evacuating the area, and carrying out house searches at four addresses in Amsterdam.
Earlier reports that searches were also conducted in Brussels have been denied by Belgium’s federal justice authorities.
Case not closed
Six men and one woman, all Dutch-Moroccans, were arrested in the Dutch capital on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack, but were later released. None of them are still considered suspects, the police commissioner said, but the case is not closed yet. The woman who called in with the tip, and the three men she described, have not been found so far.
Rebuffing criticism of the scale and depth of the police action, Mr Welten called it “predictable human shortsightedness”. Defending the decision to publicise the Moroccan origin of the seven suspects, Mr Welten said it was a relevant fact.“Everyone knows that the Madrid train attacks were carried out by Moroccans. That makes it relevant. If we had not said it, an uncontrollable flow of rumours would have resulted.”
For more information: www.radionetherlands.nl