Dutch police have stepped up security for Prime Minister Mark Rutte over fears he may be targeted for kidnapping or an attack by drug gangs, local media reports said Monday.
The threat against Rutte, who is known for cycling to work with little security, follows the murders of a prominent investigative reporter and a lawyer both linked to a major organised crime trial.
The 54-year-old centre-right premier has been shadowed by so-called spotters for a drug trafficking gang dubbed the “Mocro Mafia”, De Telegraaf newspaper and several broadcasters reported.
Rutte refused to comment on the reports as he arrived on foot at parliament for long-running coalition talks, telling journalists: “I don’t say anything about safety or security.”
Rutte’s office, the Dutch national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, and the national prosecutor’s office also declined to comment.
“I am not in a position to comment. We never comment on issues related to security measures,” a spokesman for Rutte’s office told AFP.
Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, who himself lives under 24-hour security due to death threats, said the news was “terrible”.
“You wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Strength to Prime Minister Rutte,” tweeted Wilders, who is normally a strident critic of the premier.
‘Visible and invisible measures’
Rutte is famously fond of travelling by bike around The Hague, even arriving on two wheels to meetings with the Dutch king and with foreign leaders, with little apparent security in tow.
But De Telegraaf said that there were “signals that he (Rutte) may be the target of an attack or kidnapping”, and that “suspicious” people with known links to the Mocro Mafia had been seen near him at different times and places.
Similar spotters were involved in the murders of a Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries in July, and of a lawyer for a witness in the trial of an alleged boss of the same gang in 2019, the newspaper said.
“That is so worrying for the security services that he is being secured,” Telegraaf journalist Mick van Wely told NOS public television.
Specially trained police officers from the Dutch Royal and Diplomatic Security Service had been assigned to protect Rutte with both “visible and invisible measures”, De Telegraaf reported.
Dutch authorities vowed to crack down organised crime after the murder of De Vries.
The journalist had recently acted as advisor and confidant of Nabil B, the state’s key witness in the case against Ridouan Taghi, described as the country’s most wanted criminal and a key leader of the Mocro Mafia.
The gang is nicknamed the Mocro Mafia because its members are mainly of Moroccan and Antillean origin.
The Netherlands has long been known for its tolerant attitude towards marijuana but increasingly faces significant problems from drug-related crime. One police union chief recently described the country as a “narco-state”.