Homeless Pole triggered Dutch airport security scare

Members of the Dutch marshals check a car with a Belgian licence plate at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on April 12, after a homeless Pole was arrested for claiming to be a terrorist.
Members of the Dutch marshals check a car with a Belgian licence plate at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on April 12, after a homeless Pole was arrested for claiming to be a terrorist. PHOTO: EPA

THE HAGUE (AFP) - A homeless Pole triggered a major security scare and partial evacuation of Amsterdam airport after claiming to be a terrorist, Dutch military police said on Wednesday.

Dozens of heavily armed military police had swooped on Schiphol airport late on Tuesday, when the alarm was raised three weeks to the day after the deadly suicide bombings in Brussels.

One man who was arrested was "a 25-year-old Polish man without fixed address...who told officers he was a terrorist," police said in a statement on their official Facebook page.

"He had two bags with him which were checked by the bomb squad but no explosives were found," the statement added.

 

The man, whose name was not given, appeared before a judge on Wednesday where he "confessed to have been under the influence of alcohol".

Military police were investigating the wide-scale security alert triggered after a bystander phoned police about a "suspicious situation", a military police spokesman had said.

The scare at one of Europe's busiest travel hubs, with flight links to 319 destinations around the world, came exactly three weeks after the March 22 attacks on the Brussels airport and metro that left 32 people dead and hundreds wounded.

The Netherlands tightened security and stepped up border controls in the wake of the suicide bombings in its southern neighbouring country, which also followed the coordinated attacks in Paris in November.

Tensions have been high since last month's bombings in Belgium, which like the Paris attacks in which 130 people died, were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

There have been concerns that the Netherlands could be targeted in a terror attack, due to its proximity to both Belgium and France, and its role in the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Schiphol is Europe's fourth-largest airport, and welcomes some 55 million passengers through its gates every year.

No flights or train traffic were disrupted during Tuesday's operation, which saw balaclava-clad and sub-machine gun-toting officers cordoning off a square at the entrance to the airport's shopping plaza, which leads to the arrivals and departures halls.

Hundreds of passengers, many of them on long-haul flights, waited for hours until the all-clear was given at around 1.30am on Wednesday local time.

Last month, at the request of French authorities, Dutch police carried out raids on an apartment in Rotterdam, uncovering about 45 kg of ammunition.

French suspect Anis Bahri was arrested at the flat suspected of trying to take part in a foiled plot in France. He is now fighting his extradition to Paris.

Investigators have uncovered extensive links between the Paris and Brussels attacks, with many of the same people involved.

Adding to the jitters in The Netherlands, one of the suicide bombers in Brussels, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was found to have been expelled from Turkey to the Netherlands last year, before he slipped back across the border to Belgium.