Police in tense ‘terror’stand-off in The Hague
10 November 2004
AMSTERDAM — Dutch special forces locked down a suburb in The Hague on Wednesday in a tense stand-off with suspected terrorists after three police officers were hurt in an explosion.
The members of the specialist arrest team were injured by a hand grenade when they attempted to carry out an anti-terrorist raid on a building in The Hague in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
News agency ANP later reported that the officers had opened a booby trapped door, but Radio 1 said it could not immediately verify the report. Authorities have confirmed that a hand grenade was thrown at the police officers.
All three police officers expected to live, but two of them suffered serious injuries to legs and stomach. The third has already been released from hospital.
Police immediately sealed of the area after the explosion and revealed at a press conference at 9.50am that several suspects were still in the building. Every effort was being made to end the stand-off safely for everyone concerned, officials said.
A no-fly zone has also been introduced over the city.
The authorities refused to reveal how many suspects were still in the building, but confirmed a crisis centre had been established to co-ordinate further operations.
The explosion took place in the Antheunisstraat in the Laakkwartier district of the city as the arrest team moved in to detain a suspect. The arrest was ordered by the National Detective Unit, or Nationale Recherche, which is involved in investigating serious and organised crime.
Residents claim the operation started just after 2.30am, with one local telling news agency ANP that the suburb were woken by a loud explosion. “At 3am there was another explosion and shouting. At about 3.30am, we also heard shooting,” the resident said.
One man — dressed only in underwear — was seen being escorted by two police officers in bullet proof vests to a police van on the Lorentzplein at about 8am. Authorities later revealed he had not been arrested.
Residents from nearby homes in the Laakkwartier area of The Hague have been evacuated and taken by bus to the district council office in Laak.
The identity of anyone attempting to leave the district is being checked by police. People not listed as a local resident in the council’s population register risk being detained for questioning.
The immediate vicinity has been sealed off and police in bullet proof vests are diverting traffic away from the scene. All tram traffic is being diverted also.
Tanks are being deployed in the area and the suspected terrorists are said to be entrenched in the building. They are also suspected of having more explosives.
Ambulances and fire fighting trucks have arrived at the scene, while the air space above The Hague has been closed by order of authorities until further notice.
The no-fly zone instigated in The Hague bans airplanes from flying lower than 700m above the ground in a 7km radius around the Laak district. This means airline flights to and from Schiphol in Amsterdam will not be affected.
Members of the marine’s special forces unit BBE were involved in the police operation. The BBE is primarily involved in combating hijackings, kidnappings and other terrorist actions. The soldiers are heavily armed.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner is being informed of developments.
Also, The Hague Mayor Wim Deetman, national prosecution office chief Marc van Erve, city police chief Gerard Bouman and The Hague chief public prosecutor Han Moraal gave a brief press conference close to 10am on Wednesday.
The overriding message of the press conference was that police were still locked in a stand-off with the suspected terrorists. Whether the suspects have been implicated into the investigation into the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh or other cases, was not immediately known.
The so-called “national triangle” — consisting of the director-general of safety at the Interior Ministry, the director-general of the maintenance of law at the Justice Ministry and the National-Co-ordinator for Surveillance and Security (under the authority of both ministries) — is also being kept up to speed.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende described the explosion as “extraordinarily sad”.
“This indicates we are in an atmosphere of hardening. There is every reason to condemn this sort of thing forcefully. Everyone is needed in this. In this manner [referring to the violence] we are busy being non-Dutch,” he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news