- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

AMSTERDAM (AP) - Dutch police said Friday they were questioning six men and a woman who were arrested following an anonymous tip of a terrorist threat against a popular shopping area.

The warning came in a call from an unregistered phone in Belgium, and appeared linked to the train bombings in Madrid exactly five years earlier. Police said one of those detained is a relative of an Islamic extremist involved in the Madrid attacks who committed suicide a few weeks later as police closed in.

The Madrid bombings killed 191 people and wounded 2,000 others.

Police said all those detained were Dutch nationals of Moroccan descent. Their identities were not released.

Authorities were to decide later Friday whether to keep them in detention until they are brought before a judge.

The tip came Wednesday night, Police Commissioner Bernard Welten said. On Thursday morning, police sealed off the area around a large Ikea furniture store and warehouse, and a nearby street of popular electronics and sporting goods stores adjacent to the ArenA football stadium.

The stores remained shut Thursday but were given the all-clear to reopen Friday. Police kept a strong presence in the area.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the threat was a warning for the country.

“This shows that we must remain alert for threats to our security,” he said.

A concert by the American rock group The Killers was postponed Thursday night because the venue was near the stadium. The concert was rescheduled for May 29, the band announced on its Web site.

Searches and interrogations Thursday provided no information that a serious threat remained, police said in a statement.

Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen said no explosives were immediately found during the searches.

The Dutch anti-terror coordination office said the country’s threat level remained unchanged at “substantial,” the second-highest on a four-step scale.

The level has been unchanged for months, with experts warning that the Netherlands remains a terror target mainly because of an anti-Islam lawmaker’s film criticizing the Quran.

In December, the outgoing anti-terror coordinator Tjibbe Joustra described the threat level as “substantial-plus” because of Geert Wilders’ film “Fitna.”

The Netherlands has had no terrorist attacks on the scale of the Madrid bombings or London Underground bombings in 2005, which killed 52 people. But intelligence agencies have uncovered several alleged plots by Dutch Islamists, and several are serving jail sentences.

The country has been on alert against Islamic extremism since the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic radical who was enraged by Van Gogh’s short film, “Submission,” a fictional study of abused Muslim women with scenes of near-naked females with Quranic texts engraved on their flesh.

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