THE HAGUE: Dutch police are investigating after a van deliberately slammed into the headquarters of one of the Netherlands’ top newspapers and media groups early Tuesday, catching fire but not causing any injuries.
“This morning about 4.00 am a delivery van was driven into the facade of a publishing house in Basisweg” in Amsterdam, police said in a statement.
The building houses the head office of the tabloid De Telegraaf, the country’s top-selling paper, which focuses on sports, crime and celebrity gossip.
The police said the act was believed to be intentional, but no-one was hurt and the driver had fled the scene, most likely in a dark-coloured Audi car. They have launched a manhunt and are appealing for information.
The van burst into flames on impact, and fire services were swiftly called to the scene. Television images showed fire officers dousing a huge blaze which had engulfed the white van lodged in the building’s glass-fronted facade.
Dawn revealed the area had been completely charred and reduced to twisted metal, and the Telegraaf said it believed it had been a deliberate attack.
“We will not let ourselves be intimidated,” said editor-in-chief Paul Jansen, adding it was too early to speculate who was behind the incident.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, that while much remained unclear, the incident was a “slap in the face to the free press and to Dutch democracy”.
His government was “alert and vigilant,” he added in a tweet.
De Telegraaf added the van had not been able to penetrate into the building as the front windows were made of special safety glass.
But the Dutch news agency reported that a concrete block had recently been removed from the front to allow a construction work, which may have allowed the van to hurtle into the building.
Amsterdam mayor Jozias van Aartsen said he had spoken to the prosecution service about possible extra security measures to protect De Telegraaf as well as other media organisations in the Dutch capital.
The incident comes after a man fired an anti-tank weapon into another building in the Sloterdijk area of Amsterdam which houses media organisations, including the weekly Panorama.
A 41-year-old man has been arrested over the attack last Thursday which also caused no injuries. Police identified the man as a leader of a local motorbike gang.