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Dutch hostage drama over, armed suspect arrested

By AFP - Mar 31,2024 - Last updated at Mar 31,2024

Emergency responders stand behind a security cordon near their vehicles following a hostage situation at Cafe Petticoat in Ede, on Saturday (AFP photo)

EDE, Netherlands — A hostage drama in The Netherlands that lasted several hours ended without bloodshed on Saturday as all four hostages were freed and police took the suspect into custody.

Authorities said there was no reason to suspect a “terrorist motive” for the ordeal, which took place at a night spot popular with young people in the central Dutch town of Ede.

Police said they received reports of a potential hostage situation at 5:15am (04:15 GMT) at the Cafe Petticoat, with local media saying a “confused” man burst in as staff were clearing up after a party.

The man was armed with “several knives” that he showed to the hostages, Prosecutor Marthyne Kunst told reporters at a news conference in the town hall.

Police are also investigating a black backpack he was carrying with him, amid reports that the hostage-taker had threatened to use explosives.

Authorities later confirmed there were in fact no explosives in the backpack.

Police spokesman Anne Jan Oosterheert said officers were on the scene within minutes, immediately opening negotiations with the man.

“Luckily that all went well,” he said, declining to offer details of the negotiations.

The suspect is known to the police and has a previous conviction for threatening behaviour. Investigations are under way as to his motive and psychological state, Kunst said.

“Great respect and appreciation for police, emergency services and special forces who brought the hostage situation... to a successful conclusion,” said outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“I wish everyone affected a great deal of strength to deal with these intense and dramatic events,” he added.


‘Terrible situation’ 


The incident sparked a major deployment including riot police and explosives experts.

Police cleared the town centre and evacuated the residents of some 150 buildings near the cafe. Trains were diverted away from the town as a precaution.

Hours after the ordeal began, an initial group of three people was released, pictures from public broadcaster NOS showing them exiting the building with their hands in the air.


The fourth hostage was freed shortly afterwards, with the suspected hostage-taker then arrested.

NOS images showed a man kneeling on the ground with his hands behind his back, as officers restrained him with handcuffs.

“A terrible situation for all these people. My concern and thoughts go out to them and their loved ones. I hope that the situation is now resolved quickly and safely,” said Ede mayor Rene Verhulst.

“Emotions are high” in the town, said the mayor, saying it had been “a very intense Saturday morning.”

He said he would soon be visiting the hostages, who were employees of the cafe.

“They were confronted by a man who said he had explosives in his bag and threatened them with knives. They are completely shocked,” Verhulst said.

The Netherlands has seen a series of terror attacks and plots, but not on the scale of other European countries, such as France or Britain.

In 2019, the country was stunned by a shooting spree on a tram in the city of Utrecht that claimed four lives.

In the most serious incident involving a terror attack, outspoken Dutch anti-Islam film director Theo van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death in 2004 in Amsterdam by a man with ties to a Dutch Islamist terror network.

Last year, a 27-year-old man armed with two guns held several people hostage at an Apple store in Amsterdam, sparking a tense five-hour ordeal.

That stand-off ended when the suspect was hit by a police car as he chased his last hostage who made a desperate break for freedom and ran out of the store.

He later died in hospital from his injuries.

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