Authorities in Amsterdam have set up a task force to look into the increasing use of explosive and hand grenades by criminal gangs.
In the latest incident, a grenade was found outside the entrance to a coffeeshop on Brouwersgracht on Sunday morning. Police closed off the street while a bomb disposal team made the area safe. A week earlier two grenades were found in 24 hours near the same coffeeshop in Spuistraat.
Police also report a rise in the use of explosives to raid cashpoint machines. An ATM on Delflandplein was targeted for the second time in six months on Sunday morning. Two suspects were filmed fleeing the scene on a scooter.
The city council has asked the ‘troika’ of police, prosecution and council officials to look at what preventive measures can be taken to protect businesses from violence and intimidation. The incidents pose a ‘large risk’ to local residents and passers-by, the council said in a statement.
In 2017 and 2018 40 incidents were recorded in which explosives were used for the purpose of intimidation, mostly in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The problem has spread to neighbouring municipalities such as Zaandijk, where a hotel was closed last week after a device placed outside its front door exploded.
Mayors have tended to respond to shootings or grenade attacks at cafes by closing the business concerned on safety grounds, typically for a period of three months, but there have been concerns that this policy is exacerbating the problem by encouraging rival gangs to try to shut each other’s premises down.
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