Rotterdam van not linked to Spanish terror cell, official says
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Rotterdam van not linked to Spanish terror cell, official says

Police question driver of vehicle stopped in Dutch city with gas canisters after concert canceled over unspecified terror warning from Spain

A van with a Spanish numberplate near the concert venue Maassilo is seen during police investigations after a rock concert was cancelled due to a terror threat, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on August 23, 2017. (AFP/ ANP / Arie Kievit)
A van with a Spanish numberplate near the concert venue Maassilo is seen during police investigations after a rock concert was cancelled due to a terror threat, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on August 23, 2017. (AFP/ ANP / Arie Kievit)

A van with a Spain license plate that was detained in the Rotterdam is not connected to the attacks that killed 15 people in Spain last week, a Spanish counterterrorism official said.

The official said investigators discarded a possible link between the van’s driver and the extremist cell that carried out the attacks in and near Barcelona after questioning the driver and examining the van.

The van was stopped in Rotterdam on Wednesday night not far from a concert venue where a show by American rock band Allah-Las was canceled due to an unspecified threat.

The official spoke anonymously because the Civil Guard is still probing the potential threat.

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said at a hastily arranged press conference earlier that the terror warning came from Spanish police.

He declined to give further details on the nature of the warning or where in Spain it came from, adding that it was too soon to link the van to the unspecified threat directed at the concert.

Rotterdam's Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb speaks to the press after a rock concert was cancelled due to a terror threat, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on August 23, 2017. (AFP/ANP/Arie Kievit)
Rotterdam’s Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb speaks to the press after a rock concert was cancelled due to a terror threat, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on August 23, 2017. (AFP/ANP/Arie Kievit)

“It is not yet good to say that the things are linked,” Aboutaleb said. “It still has to be established that there was a link between the van and the threat. We can’t say that yet.”

A Spanish counter-terrorism investigation official said Spain’s Civil Guard received “an alert indicating the possibility of an attack today in a concert that was going to take place in Rotterdam.”

The Civil Guard shared the information with Dutch authorities and is investigating the threat, said the source, speaking anonymously because the Civil Guard is still probing the threat.

Police in Spain have been investigating the deadly vehicle attacks last week that killed 15 people in and near Barcelona. They later found bomb-making equipment that included more than 100 tanks of butane gas, nails, and 500 liters of acetone.

Rotterdam police said they took the information about a threat “seriously enough that after discussion with organizers it was decided to cancel the event.”

Concert organizer Rotown said earlier on Twitter that the concert venue, a former grain silo called Maassilo, was being evacuated because of the unspecified threat.

The show hadn’t yet started when the decision to cancel it was made.

Dutch television showed officers in body armor outside Maassilo and what appeared to be members of the band leaving the venue in a white van with a police escort.

Allah-Las is a four-piece band from Los Angeles.

In an email to The Associated Press, the band’s label, Mexican Summer, said: “Due to a potential terror threat at The Maassilo in Rotterdam, the Allah-Las show was cancelled tonight.

“Details are not available at this time as the incident is still under investigation. The band is unharmed and are very grateful to the Rotterdam Police and other responsible agencies for detecting the potential threat before anyone was hurt.”

In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian last year, band members said they chose the word Allah, Arabic for God, because they were seeking a “holy sounding” name and did not realize it might cause offense.

“We get emails from Muslims, here in the US and around the world, saying they’re offended, but that absolutely wasn’t our intention,” lead singer Miles Michaud told the newspaper. “We email back and explain why we chose the name, and mainly they understand.”

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