Dutch keep threat level high after bin Laden message
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands said on Wednesday it saw a "substantial" risk of an Islamist militant attack but declined to comment on a new threat by Osama bin Laden towards Europe.
A Dutch counter-terrorism agency spokesman said the national risk level was raised earlier this month to substantial, its second-highest category, in part due to the perception of an increased al Qaeda threat.
Al Qaeda leader bin Laden said in an audio recording posted on the Internet on Wednesday that Europe faced grave punishment after the republication of Danish cartoons mocking Islam's Prophet Mohammad that he said were part of a "new crusade".
The Dutch agency also said it had asked security officials to inform it of public appearances of all members of parliament due to fears of a possible violent reaction to the expected imminent release of a film critical of the Koran by right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders.
The spokesman also noted the arrest last week of a 26-year-old Pakistani who police believe was planning Islamic militant attacks in western Europe and was linked to a group behind a thwarted suicide attack in Barcelona.
The Dutch government has said it fears the same kind of backlash against the Netherlands in the Muslim world over the anti-Koran film as that seen against Denmark in 2006 after newspapers there published the Prophet Mohammad cartoons.
Wilders, who says the Koran is a fascist book that incites violence, has given few details about his 15-minute film, saying only that he plans to release it on the Internet before the end of the month after Dutch broadcasters declined to show it.
Long critical of Islam and hostile to immigration, Wilders has been under heavy guard due to Islamist death threats since the 2004 murder of Dutch director Theo van Gogh, who made a film critical of Islam's treatment of women.
In Brussels, the European Union declined to comment on the bin Laden remarks.
"We will continue our policy of not commenting on this kind of provocation," said a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, edited by Richard Meares)
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