Dutch terror risk 'rising'
21 November 2003 , AMSTERDAM — As the Dutch Foreign Ministry sharpened its travel advice for Turkey in the wake of the Istanbul bombings, British security officials have warned that the Netherlands is increasingly prominent in Al Qaeda attack target "wish lists".The anonymous officials also reminded the Netherlands about a recent audio tape allegedly of Osama bin Laden, the leader of terrorist network Al Qaeda. The tape warned the US and its allies of possible terrorist attacks. The Netherlands, by implica
21 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — As the Dutch Foreign Ministry sharpened its travel advice for Turkey in the wake of the Istanbul bombings, British security officials have warned that the Netherlands is increasingly prominent in Al Qaeda attack target "wish lists".
The anonymous officials also reminded the Netherlands about a recent audio tape allegedly of Osama bin Laden, the leader of terrorist network Al Qaeda. The tape warned the US and its allies of possible terrorist attacks. The Netherlands, by implication, was also warned.
They said the Netherlands or Dutch businesses in foreign countries were becoming a more popular target choice for Al Qaeda terrorist attacks, newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Friday.
Italy was the first European contributor to the coalition forces in Iraq to fall victim on a large scale to the terror network when 19 of its soldiers were killed in a recent suicide bomb attack in the south of Iraq. And after the two devastating Istanbul blasts on Thursday, British politicians said it had been the UK's turn.
Denmark and Poland have each suffered the death of soldiers in Iraq, but not as a result of a targeted car or truck bomb.
Thursday co-coordinated bomb attacks were focused at the British consulate and the HSBC bank headquarters in Istanbul. British Consul-General Roger Short was among at least 16 people killed in the attack on the consulate.
Suicide bombers are suspected to have carried out both attacks and at least 450 people are believed to have been injured. The blasts follow the bomb attacks against two synagogues in Istanbul on Saturday that killed 25 people.
The British politicians also said it could not be excluded that other nations with a military presence in Iraq would be next on the Al Qaeda target list. They claimed the terror organisation had adjusted its tactics and was also targeting commercial interests.
The Dutch government gave political, but not military support to the war against Iraq and has dispatched 1,100 troops to the war-torn nation to assist in peacekeeping operations.
The Cabinet was initially expected to decide this week whether to extend the mission by an extra six months, but Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has said he wants to conduct further investigations into the security situation in Iraq before making a final decision.
The Foreign Ministry has sharpened its travel advice for Turkey, warning tourists who travel to the mainly Islamic nation to be "extra watchful" and avoid areas that attract a lot of foreigners, NOS reported.
But the Netherlands did not go as far as Spain, which issued a negative travel advice for Turkey. Britain is advising against travel to Turkish cities and according to a Dutch foreign ministry spokeswoman, European Union member states are keeping in contact regards the further sharpening of travel advice.
A shocked Minister De Hoop Scheffer said the Istanbul attacks illustrated how important the war against international terror was and claimed the terror attacks had Al Qaeda characteristics. He also hoped the number of missing persons would quickly decline, but he feared the worst.
The minister also requested the Dutch consulate general in Istanbul to investigate whether its security arrangements should be intensified. The bomb attack against the British consulate occurred just a 1km away from the Dutch diplomatic building and staff felt the force of the blast.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said news of the bombing was "terrible" and he labelled it a disgusting terrorist act. He expressed concern for staff at the Dutch consulate, but has ruled out relocation.
"You must never yield to terror," he said.
Both Britain and the US have called the attacks a challenge against the war against terror and the UK Foreign Office warned British citizens against travel to Istanbul and all of Turkey's other major cities. The US closed its Istanbul consulate and warned Americans to avoid the bombing areas, BBC reported.
The Dutch association of travel agencies ANVR has urged travel operators to remain "accommodating" in dealing with Dutch nationals preparing to travel to Istanbul.
A spokeswoman said travellers could, for example, make arrangements with their travel bureau to delay their journey. The arrangement exclusively applies to Istanbul and not to other areas of Turkey.
KLM will continue flying as per normal to Istanbul and has not annulled any of its flights. While in Germany, travel bureaus are offering customers the chance to transfer their vacations. The offer only applies to people booked to travel to Istanbul this year.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news