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Hoax caller of Amsterdam terrorism alert released

Amsterdam, July 29, 2009 [DutchAmsterdam.nl] — The woman whose phone call regarding an impending terror attack led to the evacuation last March of several stores in Amsterdam appeared in a Rotterdam court today for a pro forma hearing.

According to the Justice Department, Sa&#239da H. on March 11, 2009, used a prepaid mobile phone for a call from Brussels to Amsterdam police. The woman told Amsterdam police that a group of terrorists had plans to carry out an attack in the South-East district of Amsterdam.

The woman gave police three addresses and the names of some ‘terrorists.’

It turned out that the people she mentioned by name were in Madrid at the time.

Six men and one woman who were found at one of the addresses were arrested. As it turns out, among them were the woman’s own husband and her two sons.

Sa&#239da H., who was arrested last May, denies any involvement with the phone call. The Justice Department is convinced she was the caller, and points out that the box for the prepaid phone used in the call was found in the woman’s home in Amsterdam.

The Justice Department also says that in the past, Sa&#239da H. has contacted authorities with both good and bad tips about upcoming attacks. A prime example is that in 2004 she gave authorities the names of several men who one day later were involved in the Madrid bomb attacks. Among them was a distant relative of her husband.

The Public Prosecution service suspects the woman has psychological problems, and wants her evaluated by the Pieter Baan Centrum — a psychiatric observation center operated by the Justice Department.

However, the judge today decided that though the woman remains a suspect, there is little possibility of a repeat performance. She therefore no longer needs to be held in pre-arrest and will not have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Earlier, Sa&#239da H. reiterated that she had nothing to do with the phone call, but that she now fears for her life as there are people who believe she tipped off police.

Call closes stores; bring international media attention

Acting on information received in a midnight phone call, police on March 12, 2009 compelled several stores at a shopping boulevard in South-East Amsterdam to remain closed. The premises of a nearby IKEA store were vacated and later searched for explosives.

The caller had alerted police to a possible terrorist attack. According to the caller, the aim would be to create a large number of victims among shoppers in busy stores.

Seven suspects named by the caller were picked up. National and international media suggested Amsterdam had escaped a terrorist attack, but two days later all of those arrested were released.

In the aftermath some people questioned the stepped up response to what turned out to be a hoax call. However prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Internal Affairs minister Guusje ter Horst were pleased with the way police and the justice department handled the event. They were right in taking the threats seriously, Balkende said.

Justice minister Hirsch Ballin Ballin added that not every phone call results in such a huge operation, but reiterated that this particular call had to be taken seriously based on the amount of information that initially checked out.

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Last updated CET (Central European Time)

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