Dutch police in Rotterdam evacuated a concert venue on Wednesday night after police found a van loaded with gas canisters outside. A Californian band called the Allah-Las had been due to perform at the Maassilo venue.
The driver of a white van with Spanish license plates, loaded with gas canisters, was spotted as he made several turns around the venue. He has been detained in Rotterdam and taken in for questioning by the police.
Rotterdam’s Muslim mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, confirmed the arrest at a news conference, but warned against “swift conclusions” about Islamic terrorism. He said it was impossible to say if the van posed a terrorist threat.
Aboutaleb denied any connection with the recent jihadist attack in Barcelona. “We should not make an overall sum and draw conclusions. Police and justice should have the opportunity to do better research. We must always take the certain for uncertain,” he said during a media conference.
“It would be wrong at this moment to pile up these facts and conclude… there was a plan to attack with gas bottles etc., because that was the picture last week in Barcelona. I would be careful with that,” he told Reuters.
“Police took this information seriously enough that, after a discussion with the organizers, it was decided to cancel the event,” the Rotterdam police noted in their statement. The threat level however has not changed, the NCTV officially announced.
The NCTV, De Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid, would give no further details on Wednesday.
The tip-off on the threat came from the Spanish police. A Spanish judicial source told Reuters that the tip resulted from an investigation by the Spanish Civil Guard. Dutch police halted the diver in Mijnsheerenlaan.
The were investigating possible links with the attack in Barcelona, the Rotterdam police tweeted. Spanish police found bomb-making equipment that included more than 100 tanks of butane gas, nails, and 500 litres of acetone peroxide, which can be used as a crude and unstable homemade explosive.
The rock music programme included the Turkish-Dutch singer Altin Gün, and leftists speculated that it could therefore also be “extreme right-wing threats”. But Dutch police also issued a statement online, confirming the suspicion of jihadist terrorism.
The mayor confirmed that anti-terror unites had been deployed. “On-site is an anti-terrorist unit of the Special Interventions Service (DSI).” NOS, a Dutch TV station, explained that the DSI was unit of marines and police in charge of “terrorism-related situations”.
“The police had already reported that an attack would have been committed during the concert. After consultation, it was decided to take it for certain and to end the concert,” RTV Rijnmond reported.
The Spanish news agency Europa Press reported that the van driver was a Spanish citizen, that he had been “drunk” and that the gas cannisters had been for “private use”.
The Allah-Lahs, a Californian band, told the Guardian newspaper last year their “holy sounding” name would offend Muslims. On Wednesday, they were trapped inside the venue for hours before being escorted away from Maassilo.
“We get emails from Muslims, here in the US and around the world, saying they’re offended,” Miles Michaud, the lead singer told the Guardian.
Concert organizer Rotown was told at 18.45 that the performance could not continue because of a terror threat. Meanwhile van with a Belgian license plate was also stopped and searched, but nothing found in it, ad.nl reported.
The situation in the Maassilo was only brought under control after midnight. The on-the-spot investigation by the Explosive Clearance Service (EOD) was completed around that time and some deposits were removed, nu.nl reported. The white van was removed by the police.
The performance in Rotterdam-Zuid was the third that Allah-Las gave this week in the Netherlands. Tuesday, the band performed at the Noorderzon Festival in Groningen, and Sunday evening was at the Summer Park Festival in Venlo.