Dutch police detain man in plot to attack vaccination centre

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Police in the Netherlands have arrested a 37-year-old man on suspicion of plotting a crime with “terrorist intent” for allegedly planning to set off what they described as a “firework bomb” at a coronavirus vaccination centre, prosecutors said Thursday.

The man, whose identity was not released in line with Dutch privacy guidelines, was arrested March 18. He allegedly wanted to attack the former town hall in the northern port of Den Helder, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Amsterdam, which is being used as a vaccination centre.

Prosecutors said the alleged plot is being treated as a terror act because it “aimed to instil serious fear among the population and to disrupt the economic and social structures of the country.”

The suspect “sought to sabotage a crucial government process, the nationally co-ordinated vaccination program, in an extremely violent manner,” the prosecution statement said. “This also affects public health: The fewer people can be vaccinated, the more victims the virus will claim.”

The suspect has been detained since his arrest as investigations continue into possible accomplices, prosecutors said.

Early last month, a blast caused by what police called a “homemade device” smashed windows at a coronavirus testing centre in a small Dutch town. Nobody was hurt in the explosion. In January, rioters torched a coronavirus test facility in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. nationwide curfew imposed as part of the government’s latest coronavirus lockdown.

The Netherlands remains in a months-long lockdown amid stubbornly high coronavirus infection numbers. Restaurants, bars, museums and other public places remain closed, although the government is experimenting with relaxing some restrictions for people who can prove they have been vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19.
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