Dutch PM Rutte under increased security due to threats -media


FILE PHOTO: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reacts to the exit polls in the Netherlands' general election in The Hague, Netherlands, March 17, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw/Pool/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands has sharply boosted security around Prime Minister Mark Rutte after police received signals of a possible attack by criminals linked to the drug trade, a Dutch newspaper reported on Monday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Although gun violence in the Netherlands is rare, killings and violence linked to the drug trade have become common in recent years, as underworld figures compete for territory.

A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the report in De Telegraaf. Dutch national security authorities declined to comment on the report.

Asked about the report, Rutte told reporters: "Safety and protection are issues never to be discussed in public."

Rutte, whose conservative government has vowed to crack down on organised crime, has always sought to maintain a limited level of personal protection since taking office as prime minister almost 11 years ago.

He is often seen cycling to and from his home and government buildings in The Hague and is often approached by passers-by wishing to take selfies with him or to chat.

In a sign of the increased violence in the drugs trade, a well-known Dutch crime reporter, Peter R. de Vries, was shot in broad daylight in Amsterdam in July, months after taking on the role of counsellor to the star witness in a high-profile drug case. He died of his injuries days later.

The former lawyer of the star witness had been killed in a similar fashion in front of his Amsterdam home in 2019.

Other threats to politicians are not uncommon in the Netherlands. Anti-Islam opposition leader Geert Wilders has been forced to live in a safe house and to surround himself with body guards since 2004 due to continuous death threats.

In recent months, several people around the country have been fined or handed short jail sentences for threatening ministers and lawmakers, mainly over coronavirus policies.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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