Police in Eindhoven in the Netherlands have broken up a gang suspected of organising a terrorist attack. In the raid, nine men aged between 18 and 31 were arrested.
The men are suspected of being IS sympathisers with extremist views on jihad. Similar groups took part in the Paris attacks of 2015 and the Brussels attacks in 2016.
All but one of the suspects are Dutch-born; the ninth was born in Afghanistan but now has a Dutch passport. They were brought before an examining magistrate in Rotterdam yesterday, to ensure that the arrests were carried out lawfully.
In the meantime, the men may only have contact with their lawyers. By the same token, the lawyers may not answer questions on the case.
The raid took place in the early morning of Thursday. Residents in the north of the city were awakened at around 05.00 by helicopters circling overhead. Police then forced entry at eight different addresses.
The arrests are the result of an investigation begun in the summer on information provided by the Dutch intelligence service AVID and the Landelijke Recherche – the central police service responsible for investigating serious crimes. Details are not known of exactly what their plans were, but the alleged plot will be investigated further, the public prosecutor’s office said.
Following their appearance before the examining magistrate yesterday, they were returned to custody. On Wednesday a court will decide on whether their arrest should be extended.
During the raid, no arms or explosives were discovered, but police did recover a large number of data media, including laptops and USB sticks, which will also have to be examined.
The Al Fourqaan mosque in Eindhoven has played an important role in the development of extremist thinking in the Netherlands, according to a TV documentary broadcast last year. In 2002 two young men were killed in Kashmir on their way to a training camp in Pakistan. They had been recruited at the mosque.
Later, a group of men, recruited in the margins of the mosque by a Tunisian, showed up at a diving school in the city, looking to be trained on how to carry out an attack underwater. Instead, they were turned in to the authorities.
Some of their names later turned up again in connection with terror attacks in Madrid and in Belgium. Eindhoven is barely 20km from the Belgian border.