Minor suspects held in Rotterdam explosion attempt sent back to jail; Mayor very concerned

The two Rotterdam teenagers who were arrested last week on suspicion of placing an explosive device at a building on Van Speykstraat in Zuid-Holland city will remain in jail for at least two more weeks, the Public Prosecution Service said on Monday. Rotterdam has recently been plagued by explosions and other violent incidents at buildings, with the mayor and city council becoming increasingly concerned.

Police said that by arresting the boys, aged 14 and 15, they prevented another explosion in Van Speykstraat in the Oude West. On April 25, an explosive went off on the street, damaging several homes. A day later, gunmen fired shots at the apartment building.

The boys were caught in the act on April 27 because officers were screening live cameras in the city at the time, the police claimed. “They immediately sent offers from mobile surveillance. They were able to quickly catch the suspects. There was an explosive in front of the door of the building.”

Similar violent incidents have not only happened on the Van Speykstraat, but also in other locations, including the Crooswijkseweg in Crooswijk, where several incidents were reported to police. For example, a housing complex was evacuated a week ago because of an explosion. There were no injuries. A day later, another explosive went off on the street.

In addition to the two teenagers, other suspects were also arrested last week in investigations into explosions in the city. One of them, a 32-year-old man without a fixed address, was released from custody by the examining magistrate overseeing his case. The Public Prosecution Service has appealed against the decision. Two other suspects who were arrested this weekend, a 21-year-old man from Rotterdam and a 26-year-old man from Amsterdam, have not yet been brought in front of a magistrate to determine if their detention can be extended.

More arrests are expected, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said. “I hope that peace will return and eventually whoever did this will get his deserved punishment.”

There have already been 50 explosions at buildings in the city this year. That is already more than in the whole of 2022, according to police figures. There was another explosion early Monday morning at a coffeeshop on Witte de Withstraat, which was the second violent incident there in just over two weeks. A fire was set at the same store on the popular street in an entertainment district. The police have not ruled out the possibility that there is a connection between the explosion and the fire.

The Rotterdam municipality and the police announced on Sunday that they will increase security and supervision in places where explosions have recently taken place. The political parties on the Rotterdam city council are concerned about the series of explosions in the city. In questions submitted to the mayor and aldermen, they have alluded to a link with drugs.

“The continuing violent explosions in Rotterdam forces us to critically examine Dutch drug policy,” D66 Rotterdam leader Agnes Maassen wrote on Twitter. “If our subversion policy only leads to violence in the city, isn’t that all the more reason to consider legalizing drugs?”

Like D66, the VVD also submitted questions to the political leadership to ask what role drug users have in the crimes. “Users are not perpetrators of drug-related violence, but they are part of the drug chain,” wrote party chair Pascal Lansink Bastemeijer. “A chain that, in addition to users, also includes violence such as shootings and explosions.” He also asked about the status of a campaign meant to draw the Rotterdam public’s attention to the social consequences of buying illegal drugs.

Leefbaar Rotterdam, the largest party in the city council, advocated for mobile police posts on Crooswijkseweg, where there were four explosions last week. It also called for help from the Marechaussee, a branch of the Dutch military, and more care services for local residents affected by explosions. “We call on the mayor and the security authorities to do everything possible to regain control of the streets.”

Aboutaleb said he hopes that the series of explosions in his city will soon come to an end. He is taking the situation “very seriously,” he said. “I hope that peace will return as soon as possible,” he said in a video message on Twitter that was recorded during the overnight period from Sunday into Monday when he visited Crooswijkseweg. There were four explosions in Crooswijk last week.

“I understand that this is leading to concern. I want to let you know that we take this situation very seriously and, together with the police and the Public Prosecution Service, we are doing everything we can to ensure safety in our city,” said the mayor, who came to take a look in the district “to see what is happening here and to encourage the police officers who are present en masse.”

According to Aboutaleb, many people in the neighborhood are scared. “The best way to give these people a sense of security is also a massive police presence. We are really doing everything we can now.”

At community center De Nieuwe Gaffel, in the Oude West district, “it was already full of people who were completely shocked by the events,” said manager Graciano Reyke. The community center wants to organize an information meeting for both employees and residents. “That is necessary. It is precisely after such an event that we can take care of people so that they can tell their story.”

Reporting by ANP

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