Had the threat level really up for such an incident?

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Moest het dreigingsniveau echt omhoog voor zo'n incident?

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the head of counterterrorism in the Netherlands

After the shooting rampage in Utrecht, the new chief of the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security on the basis of very little information to decide on the threat level. Chaotic communication follows.

If around a quarter to eleven Monday morning, several shots in a Utrecht tram, the NCTV-chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg at the American ambassador (NCTV, the National Coordinator for counter-Terrorism …

If around a quarter to eleven Monday morning, several shots in a Utrecht tram, the NCTV-chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg at the American ambassador (NCTV, the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security in the Netherlands). It is an equally happen to be as a sensitive time. The introductory meeting of the head of the terreurbestrijdingsdienst with the ambassador is three days after the attacks in Christchurch. New Zealand is an ally of both the US and the Netherlands.

If Aalbersberg around elves at the embassy is informed of the message about multiple shots in a tram with several wounded as a result, runs [on course], he is to the Justice tower in the centre of the Hague. There, on the seventh floor, is perhaps the most important administrative meeting of the day. Aalsbersberg need to get together with a few other NCTV staff will decide whether the threat level is increased.

Public to be alert to keep

Since the introduction of the system in 2005 the determination of the level of a signal to the public and media about the severity of the situation. An increase ‘helps the public to be alert to keep’, such as Aalbersberg later says. It is also a signal to member municipalities, police forces and other partners which in that case, extra measures should take.

The decision of the NCTV can be a radarwerk of decisions and political rituals in operation, to which Western Europe, after all the attacks of IS and Al-Qaeda by now become accustomed. Since march 2013 the threat level to 4 (probability of attack is real). Level five, the highest level, this means: attack imminent.

Baptism of fire

It is an extremely difficult and important trade-off for which the ministerial party in the Justitietoren state, in the first place because it is here Aalbersbergs baptism of fire. He is only since 1 February terreurbestrijder. Previously, he was commissioner of police in Amsterdam. The raising of the threat level is his decision: that must be formally autonomous, official is taken, this to political abuse of situations like this to occur.

But officials are watching television. That see around twelve, a serious-looking and ‘very concerned’ prime minister Rutte on the tv screens passing by. He has the weekly coalitieoverleg broken down, and runs [on course] to the ‘crisisberaad’. There slide, except the ministers Ollongren (Home Affairs, AIVD), and Grapperhaus (Justice, NCTV), Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructure and Environment). The latter is responsible for public transport, and so also for trams.

What is the case for the NCTV further complicated: on the basis of which should be decided on the threat level? The information from Utrecht about the shooting is long time very brief. It goes to terrorism? Or something crimineels? The culprit is still on the run. The victims – to later, shows three people dead and five injured people are not approachable. Witnesses have still not seen or heard (Was ‘Allahu Akbar’is called?). The 24 Oktoberplein in Utrecht is an unlikely location for an attack.

Defendant is vuurgevaarlijk

On the other hand: “It is not every day in a tram on the people shot”, as a participant in the meeting later says. In times of terror weighs this heavily, especially with three people dead. The suspect is vuurgevaarlijk. Furthermore, according to threat assessments take into account any actions of solitary individuals who, for the sole purpose of fear and confusion.

Then there is another thing: doing nothing is not an option. If the NCTV see the old leave, on threat level to 4 so, that could be afterwards slap happened. The terreurbestrijdingsdienst, and Aalbersberg in front, then walk the opportunity pass to be made by other ‘players’. Thus, the municipality of Utrecht has a number of far-reaching decisions. Citizens must binnenblijven, children are retained in school. The city is for a large part closed.

The decision

Around 13.00 hours Aalbersberg and his staff out. What they bring is an attempt at administrative and especially verbal acrobatics. Nuances count more than ever, and communication is often chaotic.

Yes, says the NCTV, the threat level goes up to the highest level. But it is only a temporary increase (until 18.00 hours, later to 22: 00). In addition, the increased level only for the province of Utrecht. And yes, the ‘shooting rampage in Utrecht’ has ‘yet all the characteristics of a terrorist attack’. But also: ‘A terrorist motive is not fixed.’ As long as the offender is caught, and further information is missing, walk terreurbestrijders, politicians and others with a very thin cord.

Prime minister Rutte realize that is like no other. At a press conference, just after half past three, he speaks immediately of an ‘attack in Paris,” to that a bit later again something to downplay. ‘An act with a terrorist motive is not excluded.’ Further on he says: ‘An act of terror is an attack on our civilization.’ But then: ‘If this is indeed a terrorist act to prove, (…)’

Jihadist motive, right?

On television than just a few hours to see images of a police and anti-terreureenheden besieged house on the Trumanlaan in Utrecht. The shut-down of the campaign for the Provincial state elections by most political parties increases the drama even further. If there is even a note in the getaway car – a red Renault Clio – is found in texts from which a ‘possible jihadist motive speak, such as terreurdeskundige Beatrice de Graaf later said, seems to be the case clear.

That is this however not. If the name of the (originally Turkish) suspicious pops up, initially incorrectly spelled by the Utrecht police, the speculations on social media is indeed an other side. Especially if it is known that the 37-year-old Gökmen T. recently due to rape, the judge stood. In the tram is under more of a woman shot. Is not here a question of something like honour killings?

Less terrorist scenario

Also terreurbestrijder Aalbersberg at the end of the afternoon a little less, a terrorist scenario prices than its communication around 13.00 hours. ‘A terrorist motive can still not be excluded’, twitters he after five.

A few hours earlier, his public performance him significantly less flexible than Rutte. Aalbersberg after his press conference 13.15 hours be corrected by his spokesperson. The terreurbestrijder reports that there were in Utrecht at multiple locations is shot. Thus, he gives immediate power supply on the theory that there was an organised attack, especially in combination with a rumor that a mosque is shot.

But the communication of Aalbersberg is at odds with that of the Utrecht police. That has only one location, namely the tram at the 24 Oktoberplein. A short time after the press conference is to advise the spokesperson of Aalbersberg journalists present to continue on the information provided by the Utrecht police. “That is the guiding principle,” he says.

Even after six hours, the prime suspect held. The motive for the violence in the tram is still unclear.