Someone bombed a COVID-19 testing site, and Dutch police fear anti-lockdown protesters may have turned to terrorism

Mitch Prothero
·3 min read
covid bomb
Emergency responders securing the scene of an explosion at a coronavirus disease testing location in Bovenkarspel, near Amsterdam, on March 3. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
  • The Dutch police are investigating a blast they suspect was a case of pandemic-related terrorism.

  • An increase in anti-lockdown violence was expected since riots rocked the country in January.

  • The police are increasingly wary about the impact of conspiracy theories such as QAnon.

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A pipe bomb damaged a Dutch COVID-19 testing facility Wednesday morning in what the police are calling an intentional attack and that domestic intelligence officials say could be a case of violent, pandemic-related terrorism.

The Dutch police have been expecting an increase in anti-lockdown violence since a series of riots rocked the country in January, when protesters sporadically fought with the police for four straight days.

The 7 a.m. explosion at a public-health clinic in Bovenkarspel, a city about 35 miles north of Amsterdam, damaged the facility and stunned an overnight security guard but did not cause any serious injuries as authorities warned that debris recovered from the scene clearly indicated an intentional attack with a device resembling a pipe bomb.

Menno Hartenber, a spokesman for the North Holland police, told Euronews "a small metal object or pipe, 10 cm in length, was attached to the side of the COVID-19 test center."

Authorities in the Netherlands have repeatedly warned of the threat of attacks linked to conspiracy theories. Those theories encompass unwarranted concerns about the safety of 5G mobile-data networks; a range of claims about COVID-19 prevention measures and vaccines; and the QAnon conspiracy theory baselessly speculating that many of the world's elites are members of a secret cabal of pedophiles. In the UK, at least 77 phone masts were attacked by people who falsely believe that 5G somehow spreads the coronavirus.

The misinformation has been amplified by political actors on social media in multiple cases.

"The attack very much looks like the word of someone triggered by the pandemic" along with "fears about masks, social distancing and lockdowns, vaccine conspiracies," said a Dutch intelligence official who works with disinformation campaigns and could not be named for security reasons. "There has been so much of this, I am sure everyone sees the same threats, but they are very hard to predict because most are just sick individuals."

The bigger concern for security officials will be if the investigation - which the official stressed was ongoing and would include forensics and CCTV footage to start - determines a link to an organization. Europe has seen a significant rise in far-right activity and terrorism in the past decade, and investigators fear that significant overlap with communities paranoid about lockdowns, vaccines, and other political conspiracy theories will turn into organized political terrorism.

"We have already seen the connections being made, extremist groups weaponizing distrust towards the government and media in terms of COVID-19," the official said. "If it's not today it's likely a matter of time before there's a violent attack linked to the lockdowns and pandemic."

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