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Seven suspects held in Dutch anti-terror round-up

New threats against two politicians

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - Police recently detained seven suspects in an anti-terrorism operation in three Dutch cities, including the capital, aimed at thwarting a suspected plot to attack two politicians and a government building.

The chief suspect in the raids was Samir Azzouz, a 19-year-old Dutch national of Moroccan descent who had been acquitted of terrorism charges earlier this year.

As part of the security operation to protect the politicians, officers in riot gear closed entrances leading to Het Binnenhof, where both houses of parliament and the government's information service are located. The weekly cabinet meeting went ahead as scheduled.

As a precaution, the National Terrorism Combat Coordinator boosted security at the Justice and Home Affairs ministries as well as at the secret service and other government buildings. Dutch officials saw "no reason to increase the national terrorism threat level."

November 2 murder anniversary

Azzouz reportedly was in the process of purchasing automatic weapons and explosives "probably to carry out an attack with others on several politicians and a government building," according to the prosecutors.

A day earlier there were reports of renewed threats against members of the Second Chamber Ayaan Hirsi Ali (conservative liberal faction VVD) and Geert Wilders (formerly VVD), both outspoken critics of Islamic extremism. The two went into hiding for several months after a Muslim extremist killed Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh on an Amsterdam street last year. They received extra security after resurfacing weeks later.

In the days after Van Gogh's November 2 death, there were a number of arson attacks against churches, mosques and Islamic schools.

The seven suspects, ranging in ages from 18 to 30, were detained in The Hague, Amsterdam and Almere. An investigating judge will hear their cases. One of the detainees is Dutch American, a convert to Islam, who had been released last year after police rounded up a number of members of the same so-called Hofstad group.

In September, the Dutch government introduced a U.S.-style terrorism threat gauge. The Web site of the National Terrorism Combat Coordinator shows the country currently at the second-highest of four levels of danger.

Authorities had been on the alert as the first anniversary of Van Gogh's death approached, fearing another attack.

In December, a major terrorism trial will begin against 13 alleged members of the so-called Hofstad terrorism network believed linked to Van Gogh's murder and failed plots to attack politicians. Van Gogh’s murderer has been added to the Hofstad case even though he already has been sentenced to life.