Personal protection has been tightened around Dutch caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte amid fears that he is being targeted by drugs criminals, following the shooting dead of investigative journalist, Peter R De Vries, in July.
Asked by reporters on Monday if suggestions of additional security and the imminent threat of a personal attack were correct, Mr Rutte said: “It is well known that safety and protection issues are never addressed in public.”
Some judges, lawyers, journalists and police officers and their families have been living with extra security since justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus acknowledged in the wake of the De Vries killing that "excessive violence" against public figures was "no longer a taboo".
The journalist’s death in central Amsterdam came just months after he took on the role of “advisor” to the main witness in a high-profile court case connected to a string of drugs-related killings.
The same witness’s brother and his lawyer had previously both been shot dead in separate incidents.
The alarm was raised in the case of Mr Rutte – who famously likes to cycle to and from work in The Hague, frequently on his own – when the intelligence service was alerted to what it believed were “spotters” in his vicinity, sometimes a sign that plans are being made for an attack or a kidnap.
MPs noticed additional security in the parliamentary complex and even inside the chamber during the budget debate last week, but assumed it was for far-right politician Geert Wilders, who has been living with 24-hour security for more than 15 years because of Islamist threats.
However, further inquiries by the media, including the national broadcaster, NOS, confirmed that the security was intended for Mr Rutte – now in his 11th year as prime minister, at the head of his third consecutive coalition government, which collapsed in January. He remains in office in a caretaker capacity.
Security sources said the precautions were both “visible and invisible” and were likely for the foreseeable future to be 24-hour as in the case of Mr Wilders, with officers travelling ahead of the PM on the lookout for potential threats.
One analyst said the criminals' plan could be "to sow fear and destabilise society" – a suggestion described by Amsterdam's mayor, Femke Halsema, as "a terrorist tactic".
Acting finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra, said last week that €400 million more would be spent next year on anti-crime measures, including personal security for those potentially at risk.