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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Four Arrested over Suspected Plot to Abduct Belgian Justice Minister Van Quickenborne

A spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor’s office in The Hague said the captured trio were all Dutch and aged 20, 29, and 48

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BELGIUM: Police in the Netherlands have nabbed four potential suspects over what Belgium’s justice minister Van Quickenborne described as a ploy to kidnap him.

In a video message run by state broadcaster RTBF, the mayor of the city of Kortrijk in western Flanders appeared to accuse a “drug mafia” in a video message.

Speaking to an audience at a local ball, Van Quickenborne said that in a telephone conversation on Thursday, a federal prosecutor had warned him of a possible abduction plan targeting him.

On Saturday, Van Quickenborne notified the public and press that he would be “placed under strict security for the time being and will not be able to participate in some planned activities in the coming days.” He expressed his concerns about the threats to his life with some annoyance. “It’s not pleasant, but understandable,” he added.

Let me be clear: the people behind this are achieving the opposite of what they aimed for. It strengthens me in the belief that we need to keep fighting. The criminals feel trapped. That feeling is right. Because we will continue to fight organised crime with more manpower and resources than before.

“In our democratic rule of law, we will never fold to violence. Never.”

Federal prosecutors said on Saturday that police had beefed up security for Van Quickenborne, citing signs of a serious “threat”. They said three suspects had been detained in the Netherlands and that Belgian authorities were seeking their extradition.

A spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor’s office in The Hague said the captured trio were all Dutch and aged 20, 29, and 48. The fourth suspect had been arrested in the Netherlands on Sunday, a judicial source said.

Meanwhile, Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo expressed his concerns in a tweet on Saturday, where he also expressed his utter dismay at the threat to Van Quickenborne’s life, saying it was “totally unacceptable”. However, he made it clear that such serious threats to government officials will not be taken lightly and punitive judgement will be bestowed on those who threaten, “We will not be intimidated by anyone. The work continues.”

Moreover, following a report published in the Flemish daily Het Laatste Nieuws, the source confirmed to AFP that an automatic weapon had been found in a vehicle spotted near the minister’s residence in Kortrijk. Belgian news outlet VRT reported that the vehicle contained Kalashnikovs (a type of rifle or submachine gun made in Russia), other firearms and two bottles of petrol.

The prosecutor’s office said it had been informed last week of a “possible threat,” which led to an investigation. It would not provide further details.

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