World Cup watchDutch authorities fear World Cup terrorism threat

Published 28 May 2010

A member of al Qaeda in Iraq said members of the organization ere planning to attack the Dutch and Danish soccer teams — and Dutch and Danish fans — in South Africa during the World Cup; experts are divided over the seriousness of the threats, but Dutch authorities are worried

Dutch security officials said they are taking seriously the threat to soccer fans after a terrorism suspect arrested in Iraq claimed he considered attacking Dutch or Danish fans at the World Cup in South Africa.

The Dutch anti-terrorism office and Danish authorities said, however, that they are not yet planning any new security measures in response. Judith Sluiter of the Netherlands’ anti-terrorism coordination office says the comments made by Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani were in line with her agency’s perception of potential threats.

Dutch interests abroad are more at risk than they are inside this country at the moment,” Sluiter said. “Here, they’re limited, but abroad, they’re substantial.”

Al-Qahtani said he considered attacking the Dutch and Danish teams or fans to avenge perceived insults to Islam. “We discussed the possibility of taking revenge for the insults of the prophet by attacking Denmark and Holland,” al-Qahtani told the AP. “If we were not able to reach the teams, then we’d target the fans.”

Al-Qahtani, a Saudi citizen, was arrested in Iraq on 3 May after a note he had written detailing similar plans was found at a house where two leading al-Qaeda suspects were killed in April.

Dutch citizens are considered potential targets in part due to an anti-Islam film made by right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Similarly, Danes have been considered at risk due to the publication of cartoons featuring Islam’s prophet Mohammed.

Vish Naidoo, a spokesman for South African police, said the report from Baghdad would not affect World Cup security planning because terrorism had always been part of the calculations.

Interpol, the international police coordination agency, is sending 200 experts to assist at the tournament, while each of the thirty-one visiting teams will be sending up to eight officers to work with South African counterparts.

South Africa has trained 44,000 extra police for the event.

Sluiter said her agency was in touch with intelligence agencies about potential threats and “keeping its finger on the pulse.”